21 Ways to Grow as a Writer

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Do you ever feel like you’re not really progressing with your writing?

Perhaps you’re at the start of your writing journey, but it’s hard going. You feel unconfident and unsure: you want to move forward, but you don’t know quite how.

Perhaps you’ve been writing for years and years, and you’re in a bit of a rut. You feel bored, stagnant: you want to take the next steps, but you’re afraid of leaving your comfort zone.

Here are 21 ways to grow as a writer, whatever stage you’re at. See what you could try this week.

Getting Started

#1: Read something — and think about it. How did the author grab your attention on page one of that novel? How did the blogger keep you reading post after post on their site?

#2: Learn a new word. If you come across one when you’re reading, look it up, and find out what it means.

#3: Tackle a writing exercise. Use a book (or website) with prompts, or flick through a magazine and pick an image to write about.

#4: Write as often as you can. That might not be every day — but it should at least be every week. Once writing becomes a habit, you’ll find it much easier to make consistent progress.

Practice Makes Perfect

#5: Correct a persistent mistake. Do you constantly confuse “its” and “it’s”? Do you muddle “affect” and “effect”? Spend some time learning the difference.

#6: Practice one element of writing. Try writing dialogue, or description, or killer opening lines. Lots of writing books have exercises to help you.

#7: Keep a writing journal. After each writing session, jot down your thoughts: how did it go? What worked (and what didn’t)? Did anything surprise you?

#8: Go through your writing folder. Look back at something you wrote months or years ago. See if it might have potential for development (and see how your writing has moved on since then).

Help and Support

#9: Share your writing with someone. Perhaps that’s a family member or a trusted friend. You don’t need to ask for their feedback — just let them read it.

#10: Get your writing edited. Pay a professional to edit an article, blog post, novel chapter, etc. Look through all their edits carefully, and see what you can learn.

#11: Join a writers’ group. This is a great way to meet other writers, get feedback on your work, and learn more about the craft of writing.

Shaking Things Up

#12: Try a new form of writing. If you only write in third person, try first person. If you only write prose, try poetry. If you only write serious non-fiction, try a humorous piece.

#13: Read something outside your comfort zone. That could be literary fiction, biography, erotica, westerns … anything that you normally wouldn’t consider reading (or writing).

#14: Write in a new location. Try a library, a coffee shop, a park… and see whether you find it easier to be creative when your surroundings are different.

#15: Attend a writing course. There are so many options, from afternoon workshops to degree programmes to foreign holidays — take a look at what’s available!

Aiming for Publication

#16: Enter a competition. There’ll be dozens of websites, magazines, and writers’ groups running competitions in your country.

#17: Pitch your book idea to a publisher. Even if your book proposal gets turned down, you’ll have gained valuable experience — and you’ll have a detailed plan that you can use for a self-published ebook.

#18: Submit articles or short stories to magazines. (With articles, you’ll normally need to pitch first; with short stories, you’ll normally need to send the complete story.)

Going Further

#19: Get testimonials. If you’re a freelance writer, or if you’ve written a non-fiction book or product, ask your clients/buyers to for testimonials — this is a huge help in encouraging new business.

#20: Set yourself a challenge. Maybe you want to get published in a national newspaper, or see your writing on a huge website, or win a competition.

#21: Self-publish your work. In today’s digital world, it’s easier than ever to get your writing in front of readers. Think about starting a blog, or putting your novel out there in ebook form.

 

Which of these will you try this week? Let us know in the comments. And if you’ve got any ideas to add to the list, tell us those too!

 

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27 thoughts on “21 Ways to Grow as a Writer

  1. How do you exactly go about doing #17: pitching your idea to a publisher? Seems like an idea from someone unpublished would get lost in the shuffle. Any advice? Thanks!

    • That’d be a whole article in itself … if not several! For non-fiction, find a specific publisher to target, and look at their guidelines on sending a proposal. (For fiction, they usually want you to have written the whole novel first, and — in the UK — you send a synopsis and first 3 chapters.)

  2. A great list. It gave me a few new ideas. I’d like to add a suggestion and expand on #1 and #13. Read something you may not like and try and figure out why you don’t like it. Is it the characters? Is it the dialogue? You can learn a lot from trying to understand your own preferences, and why you think you would write it differently.
    Michelle Blake’s last blog post ..Live your Dreams

  3. Really good advice! We have to work hard all the time and sometimes it’s handy to find a new way to do things, or look at things. As far as pitching to a publisher, conventions! There are writing fairs and conventions all over the country, big and small…and publishers go to them all. As an editor, I go to several a year and we take pitches, formally and informally everywhere we go. Just make sure the person you’re talking to is actually in pitch taking mode when you do it. I hear stories about editors trapped in bathroom stalls…
    kate richards’s last blog post ..Release Day for An Apple Away is June 8, 2012! A Wiccan Haus book from Musa Publishing

    • Thanks, Kate! And that’s a fantastic tip about conventions — here in the UK, a couple of the major writing conferences have lots of agents and editors attending, and authors can book short (15 min) one-to-one appointments with them … a really great opportunity to by-pass the slushpile.

    • Thanks, TNeal! And I’m not suggesting that this is in any way a definitive set of steps, of course; just a grab-bag for people to choose from if they’re looking to go a little further. 🙂

  4. I completely agree with #7. Before I had a writing journal on me I would think of great ideas but forget about them by the time I got home. Now that I have one I keep track of ideas for my novel and new blog post ideas.

    I’m going to try #2 learning a new word. It never hurts to expand your vocabulary.

    • Thanks Shaquanda! There’s nothing more frustrating than not having anything to write on when you come up with a great idea…

  5. It’s a very interesting list.
    In this week I published my first ebook, so I have already applied the #21 and I will try the #8 I have a brief “incipit” of a new novel ho knows what will come…
    Thanks for your valuable advice

  6. #8 scares the dickens out of me. I’ve done it before and my LORD my stuff was wonderfully horrible back then. It’s comforting to see how much I improved, but it’s also horribly embarrassing to know that I wrote that kind of stuff back then… 😛

    • I often have similarly mixed feelings! Towards the end of my MA, I looked back at some the work I’d done at the start of it … and I was staggered at how much I’d improved (especially as I didn’t *feel* like I was making particularly dramatic progress). But sometimes, an old piece can hold a real gem — even if it’s just one image or idea or sentence that you can use.

  7. Hi Ali, I have done quite a few things on your list and yet I need to do more. I don’t know where you get all your energy from to accomplish what you do.
    No.17 looks to be a great one for me albeit challenging.

    I did get my ebook edited and proof read. Learnt heaps and found my writing wasn’t too bad after all. I always think that we have a blind spot when it comes to our own writing and a fresh pair of eyes can really lift our game.

    warm regards

    Carole
    Carole Lyden’s last blog post ..Justice for Lindy as Australia embraces its shadow side

    • I write fast, which helps — and I have a very supportive husband! Good luck with #17, if you do go for it; the first time I pitched a book was way before I was ready, and I predictably got turned down, but putting together a proposal was a valuable learning experience all the same.

      So glad you had a great editing experience; I know how tough it can be to seek critical feedback … but it’s also an invaluable way to suddenly see some of those blind spots.

  8. Writing as frequently as four to five times a week really played a big role in polishing my writing skills. Sure, I read more and more, and try choosing the material I’m about to digest carefully, but practicing how to use and bend those words, phrases and sentences, gives the best results for me. I love reminiscing from time to time too, just to see how much progress I’ve made. It also helps if you want to make your tone and writing style show the progress you’ve made.
    Slavko Desik’s last blog post ..How To Feel Fit And Energized Most Of The Time

    • I think writing frequently — and consciously practising, too — is a great way to improve. Glad it’s working for you, Slavko. 🙂

    • I always find it tough to pick up a project after a break (and much easier to keep going when I’m writing several times a week) — and I’m often surprised how much of what I’ve already written that I forget after a break, too!

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