Isn’t that the truth?
You can read all of the How-To manuals you want, you can peruse YouTube tutorials until you’re blue in the face, but the greatest way to learn something is to roll up those sleeves and just… do it.
The old adage of “practice makes perfect” will never, ever apply to writing. However, if you devote time each and every day to hone your craft, you’ll find that “practice makes better”. The more effort you spend on actually writing, allowing your imagination to manifest onto paper, you’ll find that the creative process will become easier as days, weeks, and months pass.
That being said, throughout my writing journey I’ve found a few exercises that have helped me to become a better wordsmith and I’d love to share them with you.
- 5 Minute Manuscript – Set a five-minute timer and immediately begin clacking away on your keyboard. It doesn’t matter where your brain starts, the goal is to have a short piece of flash fiction by the time that bell rings. This was hard for me in the beginning but as I continued to practice the exercise, the ideas came quicker and now my fingers fly across the keys. I have hundreds of pieces of flash fiction from this activity, many which have given me fodder for longer works.
- Explore Reddit Writing Prompts – The Reddit Community has a continuous stream of Writing Prompts just awaiting your creativity. Find one that interests you and create a short work of fiction that can be shared via commenting or kept to yourself. (I recommend sharing your work! It’s fun, albeit nerve-wracking, to know that your writing is being read all over the world.)
- Edit Another Author’s Work – Pick the nearest book and edit a chapter or two out of it. I rewrote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and made it my life’s work to remove every adverb and weak adjective. That being said, it changed the entire voice of the book. Would it have been as popular without all the -ly, -ing, very, most, and quites running rampant? The world will never know.
- Re-write Your Own Work – Pick one of your ancient pieces of writing that never went anywhere. Open it back up and work on it with the knowledge you’ve garnered through practice. Chances are, you’ll find easily rectified mistakes and a few cringe worthy passages. Possibly, you’ll find a good idea buried somewhere and approach it with new eyes.
- Submit Your Writing to Publications – Online or printed, you can find thousands of publications requesting submittals from unknown authors. I receive emails from Authors Publish Magazine with those requests sent directly to my inbox. I find the magazine to be an extremely well organized literary help. When I find a call for submissions that piques my interest, I take the time to create and edit a short piece of fiction and submit it to the publication before the deadline.
These five examples above are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to finding your own style and practicing your skills. The main goal of each is to keep you writing and energize the right side of your brain.
Tons of resources exist if you wish to learn more about the writing process. On my workspace, I have copies of: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, The Chicago Manual of Style, and Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron.
Sidenote: I’m looking for How to Write Best-Selling Fiction by Dean Koontz so if you happen to see a copy that’s not over $200, let me know in the comments below.
No matter how much I’ve gotten out of reading the books listed above, I feel like my actual writing style and voice has come from years of sitting at my computer and putting words on paper (or screen, as it were.) The more you put into practicing, the more results you will see in your writing. It’s that simple.
I’d love to hear about your creative writing process! I’m always looking for new ways to grow as a writer and would enjoy hearing your feedback. Feel free to join me on Facebook and let me know what has helped you to expand as a storyteller.