How to be a good writer: Tips from a bad one

writer aesthetics

As a writer, I have learned the harsh reality that not everyone will love what I write. On a daily basis, I struggle with knowing that what I create will be continuously up for critique, constructive criticism, and relentless editing. This is the burden all writers will inevitably face one day.

I like to over-use the word ‘as’, and ‘-ing’, and ‘and’. I enjoy seeing my characters frantic, imperfect, angry, and scared. Through all of my writing, what I consider the most interesting part is peeling back the layers of the people I create and discovering what the meaning of ‘human’ is.

In my quest to answer this question, I have turned into a snake that swallows its own tail. I continuously make the same mistakes hoping that someone will pick me out of a crowd and say, “Yes, I like that one.” People have loved my writing before. I’ve won awards, earned A’s, secured jobs, and made myself proud.

But there is always work to be done and always another lesson to learn. Here is a few of them.

1. Nothing will ever be good enough for everyone.

  • Understand that and criticism will be easier to swallow. It’s easy to love what you do. It’s harder to love what you do while people actively hate it.

2. Expect Edits

  • The writers you love are flayed alive by the suggestions of others. It is the work of editors that polish the books you love. Without the help of a second, third, fourth eye, there will be little chance to create a book worth reading.

3. Your first drafts are drafts, they will be changed.

  • You’ve written a 70,000 word manuscript. Maybe you have it printed out and it sits on your desk like a trophy. The next step, after you write like hell for a few months, is to go through every single page and mark it up. Circle what you hate. Kill off a character and save another. Make your protagonist cry less and kill more. All of these changes go toward creating a product that can sell.

4. Celebrate your talents.

  • As creators, it’s hard to open up an email and stare at three-hundred pages of marked-up mistakes. I have received edits that make me run to the nearest bathroom and cry for an hour. It’s okay to question your future and career as a writer, but it’s the tough skin you develop that will find you true success.

5. Stay true to your style. Just understand grammar is still a thing.

  • You like long sentences, or fancy words, or a certain beat to your sentences. Some editors will hate this, and some readers will love it. There are rules, but luckily, rules are meant to be broken. We see this in AP style with the New York Times, in Ernest Hemingway’s dialogue, in Stephen King’s own morbid tales, in the changing poetry styles of hundreds of modern poets. Keep doing you until it sells.

6. Write like hell!

  • That’s the hardest part. Writing takes a considerable amount of time and concentration. If you’re like me, working two jobs and a full-time college student, finding time to shower more than once a week is a struggle. I was once called undisciplined when compared to my peers, and at the time I agreed. Life gets in the way of writing sometimes. It’s up to you decide to trade two hours of sleep for 2,000 words.

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