When researching this article, I found three pieces of advice that kept coming up.
Read, write, and edit.
To see what famous authors say, keep reading!
It’s great to read a lot, but reading for pleasure is different from reading to improve your craft.
When Neil Gaiman was just starting out, he sat in a roomful of authors and discussed a novel they had all read. He said he liked the book. They said what they liked about the book and explained why.
The difference was they read critically.
Looking at the messages, the author’s style, the various techniques used, and why they worked is imperative to improve your writing skills.
Get inspiration reading the authors and novels you love.
Ask what you like or don’t like about their styles. Consider what techniques you enjoyed, and those you didn’t. And think about how you can include them in your writing to get your messages across to your readers.
In college, I was asked to read everything critically. From articles to poetry to popular novels, I read on a deeper level. I found this fascinating, and it only furthered my passion for editing.
But even when I was young, I looked at things differently.
I was told I read into things. At the time, I didn’t know what that meant, but I think I was always looking for some underlying meaning in the simplest of things.
Like Adam has five apples and gives two to Alice. How many Apples does Adam have?
I wanted to know why Adam gave away to apples and why Alice wanted them.
Odd, I know, but my quest for meaning helps me edit.
And I’m not the only one.
Steven King – Read so you get the cadence and feel of narration.
You won’t be doing this to mimic others’ writing styles, but to find your style and your voice.
Margaret Atwood – Read so you notice how writers put things together.
Scene construction, information reveals, suspense building, increasing conflict, word choice....
Absorb the many layers of storytelling authors display in their novels.
Write anything and everything.
Margaret Atwood says to get a notebook and write things you may find useful.
It’s important to jot down people’s actions, speech patterns, how they interact, nature, cities, impressions of art. Anything you find interesting and leads you to understand the world better.
Then use your notes to create!
Take notes on writing advice, story ideas. Write individual scenes and full stories.
Write short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, novellas, novels, advice, blogs, news articles.
Writing in multiple mediums can make you a better writer.
Stephen King – Short stories can become novels.
I’ll add that any of these mediums can become novels if that is your goal. Or any story can become a screenplay.
Don’t know your medium yet? Just keep writing. You’ll find it.
Have a writing routine. Whether that’s writing for ten minutes a day or always right before you go to sleep, be consistent.
Choose when and how long you want to write. Don’t make it unrealistic, like five hours or ten pages a day, because you won’t be able to keep the routine going.
Editing is actually the second most common advice given from successful authors to newer authors. It came right after reading. Yep, writing was third!
I placed it third for the flow of topics.
A MasterClass article states to edit carefully, and the best writing is the product of numerous rewrites. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/tips-for-new-writers
Editing and rewriting are extremely important in the writing process.
They help you develop your writing skill and clue in on your bad habits and the mistakes you made. And of course, we all learn from our mistakes!
First drafts are exactly that.
Revisions are necessary and expected to have a work be the best it can be.
Not even the masters’ first drafts are ready for publishing. Many first drafts are bad, really bad. Yes, even theirs. So, don’t get discouraged if you get poor feedback. It’s a process.
You may spend more time editing than writing the book. Moving, cutting, adding, creating more scenes, removing extra information, tightening up sentences for clarity, placing another message in, taking one out that may be too much.
Being an author isn’t easy. It’s hard.
Achieving success with all aspects of the writing craft on your own is nearly impossible. So, you will need some help.
Use your resources!
Workshops and retreats
And of course, editors. :)
The following statements from successful authors weren’t from an article on editing, but an article on writing tips!
Stephen King – Be open to criticism. The more successful you get, the more you need to listen to your editor.
Margaret Atwood – Don’t be afraid to throw things out. Don’t worry about what other people might think about what you throw away.
Carla Hock – Write the first draft like nobody will read it.
Steven James – Never fall in love with your first draft.
Jeff Somers – Leave out the parts readers skip. If it’s difficult for you to write, it will be difficult for the reader to read.
Paula Munier – Writing is rewriting.
Jordan Rosenfeld – Learn to be a better writer; write more drafts.
Jennifer Baker – Get feedback for your work.
All this advice resonated with me and my editing journey.
I read, write, and obviously, edit. I read critically, take notes on writing and editing advice, and practice editing both in my job and in the courses I take.
For me, the most important thing in life is to continue learning, not just about topics or improving my craft, but in my personal life as well, especially my mistakes.
Experts have committed the mistakes you have and will. Learn from them. Take inspiration from them and use it to create your amazing stories in your voice.
Researching this topic was fun for me, and there are a few more tips I want to share.
Other notable advice
Neil Gaiman – All fiction must be realistic and honest. Care about your readers.
Stephen King – Go where the story leads you. Immerse yourself until the outside world is gone.
Salman Rushdie – Ask practical questions, like what would it feel like to be on a flying carpet.
Malcom Gladwell – Teach yourself everything is interesting. Show it’s interesting by asking questions.
Ian McEwan – Don’t cut yourself off from other people and the outside world.
Paula Munier – Keep the reader reading.
Jennifer Baker – Take your time.
MasterClass – Remember what you loved about writing in the first place and keep asking yourself to maintain your passion.
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