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Rumpelstiltskin

Growing Yourself As a Writer/How to Grow Your Writing Skills

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Rumpelstiltskin

How to Grow Yourself as a Writer; How to Grow Your Writing Skills

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What Do You Mean? Why Am I Here?

Growth as a writer can come in many different forms. Examples of writing growth can include but are not limited to, learning to write in a different genre, learning how to grow and add depth your characters (or even how to write new types of characters), learning how to world-build, improving on world-building, or world-building in a different way than you're used to, learning how to write in a new style, learning out to improve your dialogue, learning how to improve your description, and so on and so forth until the end of days. 

The term "learning" is especially essential there because you don't have to be an expert on anything you try in order to grow as a writer. As writers, we are constantly learning ways to improve our writing and hone our skills in order to become better writers (and that, ladies and gentlemen, is growth). If you are bringing something new to your writing, you are growing. 

 

Can You Tell Me More About Growth?

Yes, purple disembodied text, yes I can. How? With an analogy (bear with me here).

When I was in college (eons ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and omelets were the size of minivans), I worked at a shop. It was an ice cream shop/coffee shop/deli/convenience store/gas station/tobacco shop/liquor store/dairy specialty store/whatever-else-they-could-get-their-hands-on-to-sell shop, and they were super successful, surprisingly enough. One of the biggest things this shop focused on and ground into their employees was shop growth (as incentivized with money). 

Growth, in this context, was a percentage of money that the store would make that was lower (negative growth) or higher (positive growth) than the previous month(s) over a period of time (I believe we focused month-to-month, over six months, and in comparison to the previous year). To make things easier, I'll give the month-to-month example. 

So if the shop made 10% more money in February than it did in January, that was considered a positive growth (alternatively, if we had made 10% less than we had in January, that would have been negative growth). 

In order to have the best chance of growth, we were strongly encouraged to choose one of the types of products that the company would make the most profit off of, which were products that were their own brand (which largely makes sense) to promote and market heavily.  Coffee was the biggest profit-maker for this company, in fact on the manifest of products in this company that broke down how much profit the shop made off of items, at the very top, this line was presented in boldface: "Coffee = Liquid Gold".

Now, I'm not one to argue with the idea that coffee is amazing, but what they were going for was that the shop makes the most money off of coffee, so especially push coffee. The reason for this was that one 12-oz cup of coffee paid for MORE than the entire pot of coffee, plus a profit. So, anything after that first 12oz was PURE profit off of that pot of coffee.  Of course coffee was something they wanted us to try to sell a lot of when you looked at it this way. The more profit the shop made, the higher the chance the shop had for monetary growth. 

 

What the Heck Are You Talking About? What Does That Have Anything to Do with Writing Growth?

Everything, my dear purple text! If you think of the shop's growth as your growth as a writer, and you think of the items (such as coffee) that make the most profit for the shop as your greatest writing weaknesses, things start to fall in line. In this context, I'm saying that if you focus on some of your weaknesses as a writer, whatever they may be, and you focus on those weaknesses to learn how to get better at doing whatever those things are, you will have a larger return on your growth as a writer. That's not to say that focusing on things that you are already good at a and improving them is not going to help you grow as a writer, as profit is profit is profit. 

That also begs the question: how do you self-identify your weaknesses as a writer?

 

So, How Do You Self-Identify Your Weaknesses As a Writer?

One of the easiest ways to find your weaknesses or potential weaknesses is to find a third party who can come in and look at your work objectively. While we do have those types of resources here on the forums, being kind (or being unkind, which isn't an issue we have on this site in particular) or having a personal taste for a certain subject/genre/theme/writing style/etc. may affect their opinions that they're giving you. Reviews from a public viewing should be used as a tool, though you as the writer need to be able to take an objective look at your own writing and question whether certain parts of your chapter could benefit from more descriptions (as an example) or if that might be something of a personal preference to the reader.

Another tool we have open access to are beta readers. Beta readers are in no way "experts" and are generally just people who are comfortable with a lot of the mechanics of writing and storytelling, and who have the time and interest in providing a second set of eyes to try to help and make suggestions to other people. Again, a beta reader's advice should be taken in the same regards as a reviewer, although a beta reader will probably (at least attempt to) be a little more objective while making comments as it is there intention to help improve the writing. However, like with everything else, things may still be subjective to opinion. 

Naturally, in your writing journey, trying to analyze what is right and what is wrong is going to be a difficult decision. How do you know if it's a matter of personal preference or something to improve on? Specifically, when writing in the English language, there's more-than-likely a simple way to search for the answer you're looking for, so long as you have access to the internet or some books. When you're looking for things that are functional, like how to properly use punctuation, things are fairly black-and-white, though like with the rest of the English language, there's also a slew of exceptions and grey areas. For example, if you'd like to know how to properly use a comma, there are plenty of resources that will help guide you through the process. However, when you're talking in terms of how much description and where those areas tend to get a bit more tricky.

There are additional ways you can both improve your writing skills and help yourself identify opinion from necessity. These include reading some of your favorite author's works. Your favorite author (or authors) is/are your favorite for a reason in that there are things about their writing (especially when it comes to personal taste and preference) that you enjoy. By taking a look at the specific types of things that they are doing with their descriptions (again, just too keep the examples synchronic) to draw your own conclusions about the way you write your descriptions. I am in no way saying copy them, of course, it is just a good starting place as you are developing your own style and voice as a writer. Reading, in general, may help you identify your weaknesses in that it reading is allowing you to look at examples of how different people approach the craft of writing. 

Another way to help improve your writing and identify what advice is more opinion-based is by learning the mechanics of writing. It's reading the rules of grammar and doing the workshops and overall knowledge of what you're doing that is going to ultimately help you become a better writer. Knowledge is power and all that, after all. 

 

Does That Mean I Have to Be An Expert Before I Can Write?

Oh, heck to the no. Your girl here has been writing for as long as she can remember, and she has certainly never been an expert, and probably never will be. As I've said before, it's the openness to learning and the access to information that will help you grow. If you're having doubts about your punctuation, know a good resource you can access to double-check yourself. I had a moment where I forgot if I should use an em-dash or a comma in a case of broken dialogue (especially since the rules are so situational), and had to look it up. And it doesn't make you an ignorant writer to have to look things up again, even if it's the hundredth time you've done it. In fact, it makes you a pretty smart person to be double-checking yourself. The same goes for anything you're unsure of in writing -- asking a friend or beta reader's honest opinion or looking up resources is going to be the best thing you can do for yourself as a writer. 

Even as someone who has continued to try to grow as a writer and improve their writing, I still have several areas in which I have blatant weaknesses. For example, I don't like to end sentences. I'm a huge fan of parenthetical asides as a person, and it reflects in my writing. 

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It's not that my weaknesses as a writer make me a bad writer, just like your weakness as a writer aren't making you a bad writer. Did you hear me? You are not a bad writer -- not as long as you are continuing to learn how to improve your skills and have a passion for the craft. Also, know that there will never be a point in time when you should say, "You know, I'm the best writer ever, there's nothing else for me to learn." There will always be something new for you to learn. I know I've probably said this a thousand times in other writing guides and will continue to say it until the day I die, but the best piece of advice I can give anyone is that you can NEVER stop growing as a writer, in the same sense that you can NEVER stop growing as a human being. There will always be something you can learn or improve on. It is unending. 

 

What Are Some Good Ways to Grow Myself As a Writer/Grow My Writing Skills?

1. Write: Write the things you love. Experiment with things you think are areas you need to improve on. Never tried writing romance and want to learn how? Then write romance. Is it okay if you don't get it right on the first try? Absolutely! Is getting it right going to be kind of subjective? Absolutely!  You don't have to write all the things, but you also don't need to be a one-trick pony. I mean, if you want to strictly stick to one genre, that's perfectly fine, but I can guarantee you that even then, you will not run out of things to learn and improve on in that genre. 

note: and I'm not trying to say write about things that you don't find interesting -- if you're wholly uninterested in the process of how porridge is made, then don't write about how porridge is made

2. Read: I know we covered this above, so I won't get into too much, but reading other writer's works will help you better understand the craft and will show you different styles and methods of writing. 

3. Research and Learn: Once again, we've covered this above, but having access to information and resources, and having a willingness to learn new things and accept the concept that you CAN improve (everyone can improve) are very important. Knowing the subject of what you're writing is also important in creating a believable world. (If I was writing a book about horses, I would first need to research horses in order to know what I was talking about.) This entire section of Resources and Information is a tool. Use it. The internet is a tool. Use it. Use the tools at your disposal. 

4. Practice: While this can go right along with the previous three categories, we'll give it its own category because it's important. There are workshops available across the internet that can give you the practice you'll need to learn new skills and hone the ones you have. Even here on HPFT, there is the newly resurrected Writing Exercises subforum, where there will be writing prompts posted every Sunday for your practicing pleasure. Look at the areas you want to improve upon and then practice writing in those areas. (If you want to improve your dialogue, look up the rules to dialogue and then practice, practice, practice.)

 

Can We Get a Big TL ; DR? 

Know your writing, know your weaknesses, read, research, practice, learn, and coffee is awesome. ;) 

Growth is simply bringing something new to your writing that is going to help improve it. 

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Rumpelstiltskin

Okay, so I wanted to follow this up with a little workshopping, if I may (feel free to do the same). 

I'm going to pick one of my weaknesses and come up with a plan of attack in how to practice growing in that area. 

Area of Weakness: Ending a sentence when not in an action sequence (as in, not using parenthetical asides as much so as to make long, complicated sentences). Brevity, my dears -- brevity. 
Plan of Attack

  • Study and practice Japanese-style poetics (forms such as Dodoitsu, Gogyohka, Haibun, Haiku, Katauta, Sedoka, Tanka, etc.)
    • such forms of poetry demand simplicity and brevity to draw big emotions in few words, which I think will prove helpful in my pursuit 
  • Practice not implementing prose into my writing as much
    • I'm not looking to completely rid myself of my wordy writing -- it's largely a part of who I am as a writer. However, scaling back on this will help me in the long run.
  • Learn to identify "passive voice"
    • The passive voice has a tendency to be wordier than an active voice. 
  • Scale back on my modifiers
    • I use modifying words often, which doesn't help with the wordiness

Time: I'm going to give myself one month to work on this. Obviously, I won't be able to change this habit overnight, though since I'm not looking to completely get rid of this bad habit, it might make things easier. But I'll be back around the 9th of next month to talk about what sort of progress I've seen! 

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Lacey Black

Am I allowed to post here??

I would need some outside opinions but I think that my weaknesses are world, story and character building, I’m always rushing to get the story out in paper that I forget that I haven’t even introduced the characters or what they look like, no one knows where or when we are, and the only plot they know is guy likes girl. 

Another weakness is im always doing romance or smutty story lines and I have so much more I want to write about which leads to my next weakness:

lack of confidence in myself.

i may not have been writing for people to see but I have been writing for years and years and so afraid to show ppl.  Which had probably stunted my ability to grow as a writer. 

 I’d like to work on these things and have improved a bit  by two months from now. 

 

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Rumpelstiltskin
14 hours ago, Lacey Black said:

but I think that my weaknesses are world, story and character building

One option to get started on building in those areas is to outline (even just briefly) important facts about those topics for your stories. You don't necessarily have to go into tremendous detail, but jotting down notes about (for example) what key traits/qualities you want your character to have and/or what makes them tick might be helpful! 

 

14 hours ago, Lacey Black said:

lack of confidence in myself.

i may not have been writing for people to see but I have been writing for years and years and so afraid to show ppl.  Which had probably stunted my ability to grow as a writer.

 Feedback is always fantastic! \O/ Congratulations in taking the steps to show people you're writing, because that's huge growth in it of itself. 

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galadriel

I've been doing a lot of workshopping of my writing lately, but now I'm at the stage where I feel like i need to stop, take a step back, and reevaluate my goals and writing process before continuing with my projects.

I've found that I'm highly impatient while writing, taking a few images that I have in my mind about my character and the world, and jumping straight into writing without any planning whatsoever. It's definitely not working. But the extensive colour-coded planning and character journals I used to keep doesn't work anymore because I end up building up the world so much without paying any attention to the story I want to tell - and that leaves me super frustrated. Another weakness of mine is in the cadence or structure of sentences, especially in the OF project I'm currently working on. I tend to repeat this formula of long run-on sentence followed by short, dramatic sentence, which works in most places but I tend to overdo it.

So! Goals for a middle-ground. 

  • Drabbles. Lots and lots of drabbles to focus on just building my characters and world without thinking about plot progression.
  • Conscious rewrites of single paragraphs or shorter pieces to break away from the writing pattern I fall into. Trying to mix this up by writing from different characters' perspectives or changing the sequence of events and seeing how that affects the mood of the story, and hence, my writing style as well. 
  • More of a general goal: Write. Write through the blocks and through the low-periods. Even if it's words that'll never see the light of day, write. I really need to maintain a practice or I lose focus. 

Edit: Whoops. Need to add a time factor. Taking a leaf out of Rumpels' book and going with one month to work on this and report back with the progress I've made. So, end date - March 14th. 

Edited by galadriel
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