Improving Your Writing Over Time

Writing is not an ability that appears, but a skill that is learned over time.

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I don’t have much in the way of content from my early days as a writer—if you will allow me the presumption to include my time as a student, a library assistant, and so on, before I was first published—and for that I am grateful.

We all improve as we learn—and most of us do go through that process—so there should be a relatively straight line if we compared a piece of writing we created when we were fifteen, say, and another piece from ten, twenty, or thirty years later. It would be awfully depressing, I think, if we chose two pieces from two different time periods and didn’t see any difference. Our writing should improve as we learn, and if we’re not learning, then why would we keep writing?

We should have received plenty of advice from constructive criticism we receive over time. We should be open to constructive criticism, because it teaches us so much; this can come from agents and publishers – rejection slips are a familiar sight to most writers – to our own friends and family. I’m not talking there about people who salve our fragile egos by telling us how wonderful we are, but by those people who speak candidly and tell us what was good and what was bad. And we should listen to this criticism, because it’s only through that sort of commentary that we can be aware of our writing styles. We should never be precious about what people tell us.

Our language improves as we grow as well; we learn more words, learn how to structure sentences more constructively, and hear ways of language being used either beautifully or horrifically. All of this helps us to know that there’s more out there than “he said” or “she said.” Using language to evoke emotions is a particular talent, and writers should be listening and watching for new ways to express their thoughts.

Another way, of course, is reading; we should always be consuming books like they’re going out of fashion. For every book you read, you gain more references and more concepts – you can learn what you like and who you might instinctively mirror.

I’m glad I started writing pieces of fiction when I was in my teens, and I’m also grateful I started reading at an even younger age. I was able to fire up my creative juices as well as learn from some great writers, as they wormed their way into my brain with talents they had honed over the course of their lives. In later years, I have gained so much confidence from being around fellow writers and learning from people who are willing to share their ideas with me; it’s important to be open and receptive to that, as well as to find people and opportunities to learn ways of getting better, and that can happen whether you’re fifteen or sixty-five. Learning never stops.

Thanet-based author Matthew has three novels published by Inspired Quill, is an inveterate blogger, and writing is his passion.

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