If you’ve ever read any of my posts, you know that I’m not a just write type of writer. I’m one of those people who offers solutions and resources, ways to get over humps and find ways to make your writing work for you and what you want to do with it. I believe that it takes a lot to be good at your craft. And I know a lot of authors and writers think that craft should come second to business skills. But, that’s not really true.
It’s not that those skills aren’t important or useful, they should just come second place to learning how to weave a story well.
I’ve always done a bit of a 60/30/10 rule. 60% of the time, I write. It’s usually a mixture of writing work, personal writing, and writing practice. Then I spend 30% of my time-consuming stories either through video games, ads, books, movies, TV shows, watching my neighbors interact, etc. The rest of my time, I spend on the business stuff like reading about new trends, finding new markets, making connections, etc.
How many writers can honestly say that they actually work at their craft and put themselves to the test, so they aren’t continually writing the same story over and over again, but in different ways or settings? How many writers try to be better than they were before by practicing and learning their craft in all its weird facets?
A lot of the time, I see writers settling with just being able to tell a story. And you can see it in their prose and how far they’ve gotten in their career. Their stories are dead and boring, they don’t have any energy or urgency. They could be writing about the world ending, death, family drama during a funeral, and yet, everything they write is dull.
It’s because they haven’t grown or changed or seen what story really is past just writing about events that happen.
A majority of my mornings after I put my kitten down for his nap, I spend time practicing the craft of writing by running through different exercises. I’m not talking about writing prompts. I rewrite entire passages or stories from famous and prominent writers, so that I can understand the flow of sentences and paragraphs, so that I can feel the way a powerful moment hits-I feel the beats of story more than ever when doing this. When I read, I do more than just buckle in for the journey. I question why the author used the words they did, because any great writer knows why they chose one word over another. I challenge myself to write paragraphs in different styles, write nonsensical grammatically correct sentences, and so much more.
I try to be better than I was yesterday. Can you say the same?
I don’t always do it. A lot of the times I’m the same writer as I was yesterday. Nothing new has changed. But behind the workings, everything is changing and evolving inside of me.
When speaking with a lot of other writers, I realize most of them don’t do anything to make their craft better but start a new book or series or story. Maybe they’ll send it out to an editor and get some feedback from another writer, but none of that seems to contribute to how these writers grow. I don’t even think those things alone make someone a better writer.
Don’t get me wrong, all of that is important, but I don’t think it actually makes a great writer or even good writer. Critique feedback and having someone look over your work is all good. It strengthens the piece and gives insight on things that the writer possibly didn’t know. It’s like having a math teacher correct your homework. You see that you did it wrong, but maybe you don’t see why. Deliberate practice and taking the time to analyze what you’re writing, reading, and consuming gives writers the tools and instincts to create better stories and grow.
To be better, we must strive for it. Understand it. Search it out and observe it.
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Aigner Loren Wilson is a Black SFWA, HWA, and Codex writer. Her work has appeared in Arsenika, Terraform, Rue Morgue, and more. She was listed on the honors list for the Otherwise Fellowship award for 2019. She also writes or edits for Strange Horizons, Nightlight Horror Podcast, Oly Arts, Discover Pods, and more.