Writing Advice

Help for Authors and Writers

The Craft of Writing: Improving your Skill

I don’t feel naturally talented as a writer. How do I improve?

Practice. You learn to become a writer the way you learn to become a pianist or a welder or a painter or a software developer: practice. Lots of practice. Endless practice.

You’ll hear writers say you have a million bad words in you that oyu need to get out before you can start producing good words. That’s…about the truth. Your first book will suck. That’s it, there’s no way around it. Your next book after that will also suck. You need to get those million words out before you can produce things that don’t suck.

It also helps to read…but there’s a catch. When folks say you need to be an avid reader before you can become a skilled writer, they’re only telling you part of the truth. Yes, you need to read, quite a lot…but it’s not enough to let the words wash over you. You need to read not as a tourist but as a student. You need to walk down the road with the mindset of an architect, not a pedestrian.

What does that mean?

A pedestrian walks down a busy street seeing the ground in front of his feet, the walls on each side of the road. But an architect…

Ah, an architect pays attention. An architect studies the buildings, the flow of traffic, the patterns that make up the tides of humanity along this avenue. An architect studies the forms of the buildings, the play of light and shadow. An architect observes where the infrastructure lies, how it’s distributed, how that impacts the shape and form of the buildings.

That’s the mindset you must cultivate when you read.

You read to learn, not to be entertained. You note what works and what doesn’t. How does the writer introduce characters, and when? Are the descriptions sparse, or lush and luxurious? How does that affect how you feel about the book? How does the writer evoke mood, feeling, form? You can’t read the words without studying how they’re used, how they sculpt the landscape of the story.

So read and write, but do not come casually to either. Read with the mind of a student. Write with intent, applying what you’ve learned.

Do both a lot. Writing is not a skill that develops overnight.

Good luck!