Friday, October 19, 2012

Smart Ways to Sweat It Out

The other day, I was sitting on the sidelines watching my son's soccer practice. On the field behind me a football coach was yelling at his players, saying, "If you're not sweating, you're not working hard enough!"

My first thought was, “Man, I’m glad you’re not my boys’ coach.”

But that line bothered me for the rest of the day. Was he right? Will working hard make them better players? My thoughts turned to writing. If I worked harder, wrote more, would that make me a better writer?

The conclusion I came to was ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Yes, in that the more you do something, your craft is developed. But at the same time, if you’re doing it wrong, it’s like banging your head against the wall. It can hurt your craft and frustrate you.

How can we as writers be smart in our craft?
1.      Write as often as you can. I work a full time and part time job. I’m a mom and I’m taking classes. Time is more valuable than gold. But if I want to write, I just have to suck it up and sit down and write. That means I might only have an hour a day. But the reality is, the more I write, the better I get.

2.      Read. When you read, study the way the author has constructed the story. Pick one or two elements that you feel are lacking in your book such as plot, character arcs, or conflicts within a scene. Focus on those two elements as you read and see how that author has developed them. Write down notes in your journal at what worked and what didn’t. Read another book and do the same thing. I find I learn so much by reading other author’s books.

3. Find critique partners who know their stuff. These people don’t have to be writers. Sometimes your best critiquers are actually readers that have the eye for when a character isn’t being true to themselves or the plot is sagging. Trust them. Listen to them.
4. Attend writing conferences. Develop your craft by learning from experts. Your focus might change over the years, but there will always be new ways to develop yourself as a writer. You will never be too accomplished of a writer to not learn.

5.      Try something new. One of the best ways to stretch yourself at anything is to break out of your box. If you have this fabulous new idea of a book you’d love to write, but you think it will be too hard to accomplish, that means you need to write it. It may end up taking you many drafts and many years, but you’ll be a better writer by challenging yourself.

6.      Get online and know what’s going on in the market. If you’re reading this right now, you are already doing this point. I learn so much from other bloggers on what’s happening in the market as well as ideas to make myself a better writer.
What about you? What are smart ways that you make the most of your writing time?


Vijaya said...

Great tips. I'll say, write anything! As a freelancer, I take on all sorts of gigs, and they all teach me something about writing well.

And take naps!

Karen Strong said...

Love your tip #2. I think sometimes we think we have to only write when we have "long" stretches of time. Little spurts add up!

Larissa said...

Love this post, Christy!

prerna pickett said...

all of those are great ideas. i'm hoping to go to my first conference next summer, i've heard so many great things about them.

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Nice points! It sounds backwards, but sometimes I end up getting more written at school during free time than I do if I'm not busy after school. I don't know if it's my subconscious realising there isn't much spare time and trying to compensate or what, but I try to take advantage of it.

Jaye Robin Brown said...

OKAY. #5 spoke to me. There's a sci-fi I've been taking notes on for a year now, too scared to start it.

Julie Jarnagin said...

These are great. I went to the ACFW conference this year. It's so inspiring to be around other people who are passionate about writing.

Marcia said...

Excellent tips. I like #5 a lot!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wonderful tips! I think reading is one of the most important things writers should be doing. :)

Stina said...

Yay, I do all of these things. :D

My family bought the Wii Just Dance 4 this weekend. I was sweating while playing it. Sometimes I felt like I had just run a sprint. I would have done the coach proud. :D

Bish Denham said...

I'm with Vijaya, write anything. Write whenever/wherever you can.