Articles / On Writing

Quick Tip: Hindrances to Developing Your Writing Talent

In today’s article I wanted to discuss those things that hinder our ability to improve our writing. While practice is key to becoming a better writer, I’ve found that there are certain attitudes that can do much to keep us from reaching our full potential. And I think these are the things that keep a good writer from becoming a great writer. So let’s get started. 🙂

#1 Inability to Recognize your Weaknesses

No one likes being told they suck, whether the claim is valid or not. This can lead to a propensity to avoid critique and negative commentary. Let’s call it “fragile ego syndrome” and as a writer, it does you no favors. You will avoid reading your negative reviews, discount employing the services of a talented yet tough editor (or reject any negative feedback they give you), and choose people to pre-read your manuscript whom you know will give you nothing but positive feedback. Don’t fall into this trap. It will keep you caught in a cycle of mediocrity. To improve, it’s necessary to know what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. Negative reviews and critique are not a personal affront, they are a tool. You just have to have a right attitude. But be careful. There is another side of fragile ego syndrome, and this is when you believe every negative thing said about you or your story is correct. This is just as detrimental as burying your head in the sand.

So how do you overcome this? In the writing stage, you have to learn to listen to your heart and your muse. Your journey to becoming an author is for naught if you lack confidence and trust in yourself and your characters. In the pre-editing stage, you need to surround yourself with people that you trust. Don’t only pick people who will tell you every word you write is gold. Every writer needs the following on their side: a ball-busting critic, a cheerleader, and a voice of reason. In the editing stage, you need an editor that understands you, your characters, and your story. And above all, this editor needs to have no compunction about telling you the cold, hard truth. Anything less is a waste of your time and money.

#2 Over-trusting Your Talent

This is the point in the article that I tell you not to fall into the trap of believing your own press. Yes, 90 percent of reviewers may think you are the bomb-diggity, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have room to improve. This hindrance becomes especially detrimental when an author chooses to believe twenty “OMG! This the bestest thing I eva red!” reviews rather than listening to their editor.

As an author is is important to have vision, voice, and to know the ins and outs of your story backward and forward. But don’t let your confidence in your skills override good advice. If you  find that you are choosing a specific sentence construction because you like the flow it adds to your words but your editor is constantly revising it because it is ungrammatical, don’t reject those changes out of hand. Instead it would be better to work with you editor to include the flow you are looking for in a grammatical way. If you have a writer’s tic and you editor points it out, correct it. Don’t leave it in your manuscript because it appeals to you. Trust me, after the five hundredth use of “whoa,” you’ll be inviting reviews full of mocking gifs. Just saying. 🙂 And this is going to be the moment that the excuse, “but this is just my style,” won’t fly any longer.

#3 Laziness

This one takes on a couple of forms, but my favorite is this one: I’m a writer; I don’t need to learn proper spelling, punctuation, or grammar. That’s what editors are for.

To coin a phrase, good grammar is for everyone. If you choose to be an author, if you make this your career, you have a responsibility to put words on the page in the best manner possible. This means not only do you have to spend time constructing good story, but you have to improve your mind also. This means learn your craft. Improve your vocabulary, your understanding of grammar, and your knowledge of writing theory. This also means, research the topics on which you are writing. In other words, writing like Stephen King won’t help you if you have your character getting an EKG for a sprained ankle.

When you take the time to really invest yourself in your craft, it makes you a better writer. Sounds obvious, right? When you understand the proper construction of a sentence, you write in a different way. When you understand punctuation, you craft your sentences in ways that makes them easier to read. When you understand how pacing and flow operate in a story, you can do amazing things to foster emotional connection between your readers and your characters. And when you understand how certain plot elements create momentum in your story, you become a literary wizard. These are things that are learned only through study.

The other issue with laziness is an unwillingness to redraft your manuscript. If you constantly publish the first thing that tumbles from your pen, you will not improve as a writer.

Let me be clear; don’t publish your first draft. Ever. Let me be even clearer; don’t send your editor your first draft. EVER.

It may be tempting to edit it and get it out the door as soon as you’ve typed “the end” on your masterpiece, but resist the temptation. It is better to set that story aside for a couple of weeks and then pull it out and read through it. You are going to see places where you can expand your plot, things that should be removed, characterizations that need to be beefed up, and your will think of subplots that would enrich your story. Now is the time to make those changes, and your story will be better for it. This is your responsibility as the author of the story. Don’t rely on others to improve your raw material. It’s beyond the call of duty for your pre-readers or editor. Beyond this, it will cost you a fortune to make a manuscript in the first-draft stage publishable, and it most likely will still be lackluster.

Instead, practice patience. It will reward you in incalculable ways in the long run. So write your book, revise it, and then send it out to your pre-readers. Then revise it some more. Then pay for a manuscript assessment. They are relatively cheap and will help you catch any developmental issues before the edit. Then revise your manuscript one last time. Then, and only then, are you ready for editing. Don’t shortcut this process. I can’t stress that enough.

Okay, now back to writing. 🙂

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