The great Brazilian footballer Pelé once said: ‘Never think that you know everything. There is always more to learn and every day we get to know something new.’ Although he was referring to football, it’s a quote which can easily be applied to anything and, probably, everything.
Writers in particular tend to feel an overwhelming sense of inferiority and a desire to improve which I’ve not seen quite so pervasively in any other industry. It’s one of the things which makes me love writing and other writers so much. It’s easier said than done, though, so I’ve put together a few ways in which you can help improve your writing in a fairly short space of time.
- Take acting classes. This is probably the most valuable way in which I’ve improved my writing recently. I’m not suggesting you enrol in stage school, but take a look at local classes and workshops. There’s bound to be some form of drama workshop available. They’re a lot of fun and get into the nitty gritty of being a character and understanding the nuances of speech and the movement of a story in ways which you just can’t get through reading and writing. It’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
- Go to the theatre. Probably the second-best option compared to actually participating, but still one of the best ways to catch the flow of dialogue and understand the rhythms of drama. This might all sound like basic stuff, but it’s something which all writers need to be constantly looking at and refining.
- Read books on the subject of writing. This comes with a caveat. There’s a lot of crap out there. It’s difficult to know what’s crap and what isn’t, but you can eventually judge for yourself. I’d suggest reading the following three books and then using what you’ve learnt from them to judge the signal:noise ratio of everything else:
- 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love — Rachel Aaron. If any book is going to get you sat down and writing, it’s this one.
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King. A staple read for writers everywhere, this is only one person’s account of the industry (and a very limited section of it), but it’s still highly recommended reading if you want to take your craft seriously.
- Make A Killing On Kindle (Without Blogging, Facebook Or Twitter). The Guerilla Marketer’s Guide To Selling Ebooks On Amazon — Michael Alvear. This book concentrates on the marketing aspect of writing, but it’s vital that it’s mentioned here. 99% of the advice about marketing your book is crap. This book contains the remaining 1% of pure gold.
- Read a wider variety of books. Get out of your comfort zone. This is the only way in which we ever learn. Did we discover the Americas and the New World by sitting at home and doing what we’d always done? No, we did it by venturing into unknown territory and grabbing the bull by its horns. Do the complete opposite of what you usually do and see what happens. You might be surprised.
- Watch more films and TV dramas. Again, this is probably a rung lower on the ladder than visiting the theatre and taking acting classes, purely because films and TV dramas tend to be a lot more polished and, as a result, slightly less real than the stage. But to get yourself into the rhythms of drama and to really get a feel for plot and character without having to venture out of your house (see point 4!) this is a good way to get those creative juices flowing.