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If you read The Best Advice I Have Received: Part 1, you might have already deduced what Part 2 will be about.
Either way, I am happy to share my second nugget of advice. The second best advice I have received is…
There’s a reason why writing programs have such a heavy dose of reading on their curriculum—it’s because it:
- Makes you a better writer because you can view well constructed stories and see what works.
- Improves your vocabulary (how supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!)
- Inspires your creativity.
- Provides motivation.
But, if you are anything like me, there are some misconceptions about reading while you write…
For me, my avoidance to reading was because 1) I feared that I would start to imitate whatever writer I was reading and my story would no longer be my own, and 2) writing already took so much of my time—why did I want to add another time consuming activity into my life? Preposterous!
To be honest, I was pretty stubborn with these beliefs—even after I heard multiple published authors talk about the importance of reading. Of course, I never let on that I didn’t believe what they were saying. I would nod and smile at their suggestion, but I was never swayed until I started picking up books again. I then discovered they were right!
Reading gives you a sense of how successful published novels are constructed. I am also constantly inspired by other writers and how they are able to create characters that the reader empathizes with. Each book I read is like my very own book report. The life of a writer, am I right?
I do understand that if you are just starting your writing career, you might have a similar fear that you will imitate the writer you are reading. If so, my suggestion is to read books outside of the genre you are writing. Or, try listening to audio books to hear how the prose sounds out loud.
Reading really is the secret ingredient to make your prose go to the next level. And, who knows…one day an aspiring writer might read your book to motivate them.
The best advice I have received can be summed up in two words. Part 1 is about the first word…
Writing is like a muscle—it only becomes stronger if you work it out every day.
Bill Konigsberg, author of the best-selling novel Openly Straight and co-founder of my writing program, gave my class the best advice about how to become a better writer. He told us to make it part of our daily routine to write at least 350 words A DAY.
Up until I started the program, I was used to writing when I was inspired. So, the idea of sitting down and writing every day was daunting.
I tried to follow Bill’s advice—I really did. I made the attempt and sat in front of my computer every day. But, obstacles kept getting in my way when I tried to put words to paper.
Instead of writing, I was usually stopped by these inhibiting writing suspects: I was too tired (I had a long day at work), distractions (TV, etc.), or (my favorite) I needed to think about the scene more to figure out what to write next.
All sound valid, and can be valid. But, I noticed that once I stopped giving in to the obstacles…they lost their persuasiveness.
I might not write 350 words, but I do write every day. I’ve learned how to eliminate all distractions, and I can pickup where I left off easily. It took time (and determination), but it’s possible. Best of all—I can see that my writing is benefiting from this change.
It’s an obvious piece of advice, but it’s obvious for a reason—it works!
Keep writing every day, I believe in you.
Corey Ann Haydu, author of OCD Love Story, gave my class the task of re-reading our WIP out loud at the beginning of the year (in the privacy of our own home, thank goodness).
I had to section my book into fourths so I would not go blue in the face, but…I found the assignment an invaluable learning experience that I wanted to share with you.
Reading out loud is a quick way to tell if a sentence sounds “off”. It’s like having a writing superpower.
How cool, right?
When reading my writing out loud, I can quickly pinpoint what’s working, and what is really-really not…even after I have re-read the sentence over in my head.
I am often amazed at the errors I find (missing words, weird sentence structures, etc.) No surprise, my writing is better with those errors caught.
Because of this, I have found that a writer’s best friend is the best listener they know. For me, it’s my dog, Mr. Murphy. He can’t say anything (mostly just tilts his head), and he doesn’t mind if I re-read a sentence once, twice, or (sometimes) three times to him.
So, find yourself a listener (it might even just be yourself) and get reading…out loud. You might be surprised at what you find.
I have been writing my whole life, but I only started writing about a year and a half ago (can it really be that long?!)
Even more of a shocker, I wrote my first draft of my current WIP about eight years ago. Of course, the first draft was not good—it was a mess. But, the main character kept popping up in my mind. She wanted her story told, and right this time.
So, I complied. I applied and got into a year-long novel program—and I started the novel writing journey. In one word, it was tough. But, it was also the biggest growing experience for myself and my writing. I worked alongside successful published authors and soaked in their feedback. I restarted my novel (twice) and I changed the main plot (more than I can count). I workshopped my pages and experienced the heart wrenching feeling of having (gulp) critiques. I learned how important feedback and workshopping is to a writer, and I—grew. My novel grew as well (in word count and construction) and my characters grew (ha!) on me even more.
I am just an aspiring author that is struggling through her first adventure into the writing and publishing world. I don’t know much, but I am more than happy to share everything I know.
My current work-in-progress’ status: ?
Writing. Work-in-progress. Revisions (plural). To anyone that isn’t a writer, these words might sound a little daunting. But, to a writer…these words are daunting.
The life of a writer is not easy. One of my favorite quotes (that I repeat often in my head) is:
“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.” – Lawrence Kasdan
Let that quote sink in. For the rest of your life. Now, with that in mind…who’s ready to write?!