Thought I’d chat a bit about writing. That is, the process of writing. The craft, and how we put words to paper.
Many writers will tell you that in order to improve your own writing you need to read. I’ve even said that several times. Writers will also tell aspiring writers (and even other writers) to study the greats, and to study the writers you really love.
Sure, do that. It’s important that you get a feel for what good writing feels like when you read it aloud or to yourself. Here’s the thing, though. When I say “study” the writers you really love, that means you have to have a grasp of what writing craft is all about, so you can put into words what it is you really like about that writer’s work. Is it POV? Characterization? How she ties her subplots up? Dialogue? Plot arc? Twists? The way she uses certain words to describe settings? How he introduces the bad guy? Pacing? What, specifically is it that you like about that writer?
Then, once you have a handle on that, you can translate what that writer does into your own work. That’s where self-awareness about the craft of writing comes in.
In other words, you need to develop a self-editor who tells you when something you’re doing is working or not. I can look at stuff I did back in the day and I know it sucks. There are some good things in the piles of writing poo that I threw onto paper, and I see some glimmers in those early works of things to come, but I’m not going to fool myself or you and say “it’s not that bad.” Because it was. Truly. I can take any of my early stuff and compare it to my later stuff and my later stuff is boocoo tons better. Why?
Because I got a better handle on writing craft. That is, I learned about grammar, narrative infrastructure, the definitions of various elements of a story, how they work together, and what to look for and do to make them better. When you do that, you are developing your self-editor. That’s the yardstick against which you measure not only your own writing, but how your writing stacks up against other writers’ (including your faves).
I practice these things all the time. I’m always looking for ways to write better, tighter, and to change styles in certain ways to reflect different genres.
So yes, analyze your faves. But analyze your own stuff, as well, and take some courses or workshops on the basics of writing craft, because that will help you develop your self-editor and thus give you a baseline against which to measure yourself and the work of others.
In the meantime, here is a SUPER COOL BLOG that will provide some great tips for doing what I’m talking about here, as well as other things writing:
The Other Side of the Story (Janice Hardy’s blog; H/T to writeadvice on Twitter for this link, which goes directly to a post that deals with my topic today)
Janice also gives you the rundown on craft with regard to novel-writing. Check it out.
Happy writing, happy reading!