Whether you’re a writer already, or you’re just getting started, there is always room for improvement. There are so many resources all over the interwebs that can tell you how to become a better writer; but, you came to Lemons & Gold for this information, so it’s gonna come with a little added flavor as a token of my appreciation for you stopping by! Now let’s get down to business!
1. Coming from a person who has several decades of writing experience (especially creatively), one thing that I like to tell people who ask me this question is to learn to become extremely observant. Even if you’re a very talkative person or you’re easily distracted, practice paying attention to the smallest things in everyday life. For example, listen to bird sounds, look at how the water formed by condensation on the side of glass slowly drips and falls to its death, plummeting to the earth below. Listen to the way people speak, their accents, do they sing when they talk? How do you feel when you’re angry? Does it feel like a brushfire in your soul, or does it feel like someone flipped the switch to the “on” position? Pay attention to everything! This will help you develop a good plot, and will add more depth to your scenes, and you’ll have a better experience with finding the right words to say. Being an observant writer can help you with writing Fiction, Poetry, Non-Fiction, and even Technical Writing
2. This is a tip that most of us don’t want to hear, but it’s needed. We need to learn how to receive constructive criticism when it comes to being a writer. Yes, getting someone to critique your work is especially important because it will show you your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. You might be a boss when it comes to describing people, places, or things. However, you might need to improve on creating a faster-paced dialogue or giving more depth to your main characters. These types of writing crafts are important to fine-tune, although every author or writer has a strength in one thing or the other.
Now, lemme tell ya somethin’ about receiving a literary critique or analysis of your work: You are not always obligated to accept the critique. How so? Well, there are two reasons I will say this, the first one being that if the critic is just being rude to you about your work by saying “this sucks” without explaining why they feel that way in a manner that allows you to see ways you might need to change something about your story, don’t listen to them. Another reason you’d want to ignore someone’s critique is if they are trying to force you to change the way your story is going after reading only one chapter or a short part of your story. You might be a writer that likes to place little hints for your readers to pay attention to that will cause a snowball effect of a climax later in the story, and without reading the entire story, it doesn’t make sense. The best way to deal with a harsh critic is to remain silent as they give their critique, make mental notes of what you found valuable from what they’ve expressed, and just say “thank you”.
3. Another way to become a better writer is to join writing groups! Still not feeling safe about being with a group of people? Well, find your tribe online! There are all kinds of places you can connect with other writers and ask questions and get answers to all of the little things only us writers understand, such as “how do you plot your stories? Do you use a notebook, or do it digitally?” You might feel comfortable with the r/writers threads on Reddit, mingling with the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, Facebook Groups, or, if you’re in school or college, find your writing group on campus! Joining a group, even as an introvert (trust me, I understand!), is a great way to bounce your ideas off of others who understand the writing process.
4. Now, something for us BIPOC writers, especially for Black writers…one thing I must tell you is that there is a major shortage of HBCU institutions that have MFA in Creative Writing programs. Many HBCU’s are underfunded and this is and will lead to a shortage of Black students becoming scholars in the world of writing. We all know that representation is important, and so if we are lacking writers that have not only fine-tuned their gift of writing in all fields of writing, our true stories, issues, and history will continue to be erased because we’re not writing our own rhetoric.
I will dive deeper into that topic in a future blog post, but I am saying that to say this:
Black writers, don’t let anyone else own your story. Allow yourself to stop feeling guilty for showing your culture in your writing. Don’t allow anyone to say that because you use the African American Vernacular of English language, a Caribbean patois, or an African language in your story, that it’s watering down your work.
Think about who you actually want to read your stories. Is your work aimed at everybody, or is it aimed at people who look like you? Your targeted audience is what matters the most in any kind of writing. Stay true to yourself because it always works out in the in end.
5. The last tip that I will share is to simply…write! One of the best ways to get started with writing is (yes…I’m gonna say it!) writing flash fiction! You can give yourself a word count limit of up to 1,000 or even 1200 words and under, turn on some soft music (or the music you need for a scene, thank you Meg Thee Stallion!) and just go for it! I promise you, after you write that first piece, you’re not going to want to stop, and you’ll see what writing or storytelling elements you need to improve on.
For more writing tips, check out the following books that I have used as an English undergrad and as a Grad student:
Welp! Those tips are it for today! Do you have any other tips on what helped you to become a better writer? Slap it on the comments below!