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Fall Into Better Writing Habits
9 Ways to Up Your Author Game
Autumn is here, and with beachside days and starry nights behind us, it’s time to embrace the change of the season. That means pumpkin spice lattes, cozy sweaters…and lots of writing. Fall is the perfect window between summer fun and holiday busyness to recommit to your writing goals and work on your craft. Here are nine ways to make the most of the writing season.
1. Work on Your Weaknesses
All of us have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing. We may be great at dialogue but struggle with descriptive paragraphs. Maybe we crush it when writing action scenes but can’t make the transition scenes quite as strong. This fall, choose one day a week to focus specifically on your weaknesses by working on the storytelling elements that don’t come naturally. You can work these scenes into your WIP, or just write standalone scenes for practice.
2. Develop a Writing Habit
Are you a “write when the muse strikes” type of author or do you sit down at a scheduled time each day? Most of us are somewhere in between, which makes it all the more important to develop a habit. It can be hard to set aside hours at a time, or try to squeeze writing into a busy schedule when you suddenly feel inspired.
I’ve always loved what Lauren Graham calls the “kitchen timer” method—find time each day to write, and set a kitchen timer or an alarm on your phone when you do. You may have just 20 minutes, or you may have 2 hours. But as long as the timer is running, you can’t do anything but write. No texting, no Googling, no social media. This way, you make a little—or a lot—of progress every single day.
3. Find New Inspiration
A huge part of writing is reading. This fall, read a minimum of one book in each the following categories:
- A book in the genre you are writing. It’s important to know what is being done in your category and to be familiar with other authors’ work.
- A book outside the genre you’re writing. Sometimes we get too close to our own projects and need a fresh take on storytelling.
- A book on the craft of writing. We can always improve, so pick up an author’s memoir or a copy of Strunk and White and keeping growing.
4. Learn from the Pros
If you have the time and money, one of the best things you can do for your writing career is to sign up for a writing workshop or class. A nearby college may offer a writing course, or perhaps you want to join a writers group like SCBWI or RWA and enroll in a webinar series. There are also tons of workshops around the country, sometimes associated with book festivals, that have incredibly valuable programs.
5. Gear Up for NaNoWriMo
Technically, November is still fall, and it’s never too early to start thinking about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Whether you plan to go for gold and write 50,000 words in 30 days or you just want to use the time to make a concentrated effort on your WIP, this is still a great month for writing. Join an online or local NaNo group, sign up on the official website, or begin outlining your November project.
6. Take a Leaf from an Author’s Book
Over the next three months, find time to go to an author event at your local library or bookstore, even if it isn’t an author you’ve read before. We can learn so much from other writers, and an author event gives you the opportunity to see real-time interactions with a fellow author. Plus, if it’s an intimate crowd, you may even be able to ask for advice!
7. Give a Critique
Just like reading is the backbone of writing, critiquing is the backbone of editing. Swap your manuscript with a critique partner, and work hard to give them the best edits you can. When you become a better editor for your CPs, it in turn makes you a better editor of your own work.
Critiquing is a challenging business—you need to strike the perfect balance between praise and constructive criticism. Good thing we have a whole article dedicated to critiques!
8. Master the Rules
We all have that one writing tic that messes us up every time: your vs. you’re, semicolons vs. colons, tabs and two spaces between sentences instead of indents and single spaces. Dedicate yourself to overcoming that common mistake. You’ll be glad you did!
9. Practice Poetry
If you’re writing a business book, you may think this last suggestion is a little out there. But no matter your genre, you can always gain something from the art of poetry. Once a week, try a new poetic form, like a haiku or a sonnet. Challenge yourself to follow the rules (or lack thereof) of that form, and to make every word count. Because that’s the real beauty of poetry—you don’t have a whole novel to work with, so you have to choose your words and your story wisely. Practicing poetry will help you become more descriptive and more conscious of word choice and syntax.
Seeking more inspiration? Check out the sidebar for other tips to improve your writing!
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Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She loves reading and writing but not arithmetic. Follow her on Twitter at @LillianJaine or on her blog at www.editorsays.com.