How to be a Good Writer: READ
I have been doing beta-reading and freelance editing for a few years now and one of the most common pieces of advice I find myself offering to my clients is this:
I get a lot of stories in my inbox that are great ideas—excellent ideas! But they fall flat because of poor writing, not because of bad editing (that’s my job XD) but because of weak, simple, elementary writing.
I am someone who certainly believes that writing is a talent—just like singing—but unlike singing, writing is not a natural talent. When it comes to using your voice, you are either born with a good voice or you are not. You can sing or you cannot. You can take lessons, join a choir, and add autotune to your voice in a recording studio, but no amount of hard work can make a tone-deaf croak sound like the voice of an angel.
Writing is not like that.
You can learn to become a better writer. You can study language, you can practice structure, you can work on development and produce stories, books, and articles that get better every day. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some writers who are naturally gifted, of course there are! But, from my point of view, their ability to write is not their natural talent—its their ability to conceptualize, or, create an intriguing idea. This is where that natural-born talent comes into play; when you consider a writer’s creativity versus their literary capability.
Some writers have the ability to create worlds, characters, and super powers that will blow your mind ten times over, but they cannot properly transfer those wonderful thoughts to paper because they simply do not have the right words, or enough words to do so.
How do you learn more words? How do you learn to structure a novel? How do you learn to build a world? Create a magic system? Make two people fall in love?
You learn this from reading.
Think about it this way; if you want to be a better dancer, you practice dancing and stretching and learn new routines. When you want to be a better actor, you try new monologues and study classic Shakespearean plays. When you want to be a better athlete you train your body and carefully watch your weight and diet. So, when you want to be a better writer, you don’t just write, you read. You study. You learn by example.
Are you writing romance? Pick up the latest best seller and see what all the fuss is about!
Are you trying to get into YA fantasy? Check out the most famous trilogies of the recent decade—I know you’ve seen all the movies anyway.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can only learn and improve your writing by reading the most popular books around, or all the New York Times best-sellers. Yes, its great to get your hands on those, they are popular for a reason so you might as well at least see what people are enjoying today—considering how often tastes and trends change. However, the most skillfully written books aren’t always the most popular books. On top of that, sometimes it’s not such a bad idea to read poor writing; while you can certainly learn what to do in reading good writing, you can also learn what not to do from reading bad writing.
Obviously, what you decide to learn from is your choice but no matter what you pick just don’t stop reading. The best writer is also the best reader; find books you are interested in, books in the same genre you are currently writing, books that are totally different from yours—you never know what you might discover! Reading doesn’t just encourage good writing, it also inspires. Your greatest idea may be waiting inside the next book you pick up.
As a Believer, I never post anything without including my faith—this is The Rebel Christian, after all. Aside from writing for my website, I also write original work that will be published very soon. One of the ways I learn and improve my own writing isn’t just from reading similar works of fiction but also by reading the Word of God. I commit myself to studying the Bible and deepening my relationship with Christ; all good things come from above [James 1:17], that doesn’t only mean blessings and miracles but great ideas too! The closer I am to Jesus, the more creative I become. I don’t have to stress and worry over reading and practicing and improving my writing, my talents improve on their own when I put Christ first and trust in His infinite and holy gifts.
This isn’t a matter of whether or not you agree with my beliefs, I am a proud Christian, and this is what I do to help myself improve. You are more than welcome to check out my other blogs to see what Bible studies I’m currently working on, or you’re welcome to stick around here for a bit. Either way, I hope you were able to take something away from this article—even if its only a little encouragement.
Thanks for reading and God bless.