All of us strive toward improvement. I don't think there's a definitive formula to improvement. Plus, some people improve faster than others. Some of us are just the tortoise, slowing making our way to the finish line. Well, maybe the blind tortoise, since we can't see how close we are to the finish line or where the dang finish line is. But WE'RE GETTING THERE. Inch by laborious inch. And because I am the Queen of List-making, here is the List for today:
1) Read. This is so redundant. Read everything you can get your hands on. That's great if it's your genre; that's also great if it's not. I wasn't much of a fantasy person before I started writing a fantasy. But the process of writing that genre made me appreciate reading it more, and then I learned more about the genre through reading. I read a lot of YA. I read adult too. Sometimes I still read children's books. And when I'm not reading novels, I'm reading textbooks. Or biographies. Or short stories. (Short stories are really great if you're pressed for time). Read something. Really read it. Don't just skim either. Pay attention to the direction the stories go. Reread too. Don't read something once and never pick it up again. I reread stuff all the time. I mean, I don't reread it from cover to cover, but I like picking up a book I've read before and opening it to a random scene. I do it SO MUCH that I basically reread the book, but out of order.
2) Betas. You need people to tell you what is wrong with your stuff. Always good to know. Sometimes, you don't even know you're doing stuff wrong. My creative writing teacher over the summer told me I use an overabundance of long sentences. I didn't even notice I did it until he pointed it out. So yes. Critical readers are scary, but they are good.
3) WRITE. Do it. A lot. If you write pages and pages year after year, I can bet you, even without betas or reading, you'll be better. You might be thinking, "This writing is total crap." It's hard to get started if you're a perfectionist. But just think: you're building a bridge out of the crap you're writing today to get to the good stuff you'll be writing tomorrow! If you want a solid bridge so you won't fall into the ravine, you need a lot of crap. So get started today. If you want to destroy the evidence, you can burn the bridge once you're across, and everybody will think you sprouted wings and flew. But you will know the secret.
Sorry. I wanted to reveal something totally REVOLUTIONARY and UNIQUE like: take your favorite books, burn them, and inhale the fumes. Then you'll absorb all of its WRITERLY MAGIC. (Okay, don't really do that. The only thing you'll end up inhaling is the magic of lung damage.) But alas, I have no miraculous shortcuts for you. Writing is a straightforward business. It's like learning how to play piano. You can either be a prodigy or you can practice. No matter how many hours you stare at the sheet music, you will not absorb technical proficiency through your eyeballs. You're going to have to sit your booty on that piano bench and work it out yourself.
Monday: Flames and Shadows
Tuesday: Sometimes Helpful Nonsense
Thursday: Girl With A Notebook
Friday: Somewhere Nowhere In My Kingdom