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One Step to Becoming a Better Writer, With Examples


I like to type out my thoughts and express my feelings and what not. But that's not what makes me a writer. I'm a writer because that's what I do every day, because that's the skill set I'm trying to improve every single day. Whether you want to be an author, a popular blogger, a thought leader, a sketch comedy writer, screenwriter, or anything in between, there's one relatively easy step that you have to get up and do every day.

You have to actually write! And you have to focus on getting better every time you write. Each day, you have to put pen to paper or fingers to keys, and try to make your next piece better than your last.

I'm lucky enough, and thankful for it, that my immediate family will rarely say a single negative thing to my face. So when I started publishing articles, the feedback I got was "You've definitely got some skill here, and I'll be excited to see where you go with it." Or in other words, "You're a smart kid, but you need to work on this whole writing thing."

Now what I hear from them, and from several others, is that every time they read something I write, it's better than the piece before it. They're still being overly polite, but they've recognized growth. That's what you've got to shoot for if you want to be a better writer!

But if you only sit down and write once a month, or even once a week, it's going to take you far too long to get where you want to be. After all, you never see an Olympic athlete sitting on the couch 6 days a week!

Let's say you want to be a comedy writer (sitcom, sketch, film, etc.).

A great way to improve would be to sit down and create one 3-5 minute scene every day, even if the first couple dozen absolutely blow! You can take the SNL approach, doing sketches with different characters every time (which will help you in character development).

You can take the sitcom approach, creating scenes and full episodes that might or might not have much congruency (which is great for learning how to expound on ideas). You could take the film approach, where each scene you create is supposed to be part of one full screenplay (which will help you in developing stories).

Or you could mix it up and do all of these at different times.

Let's say you want to be a novelist.

You're going to want to focus on story development and character development, whether it be through drama, comedy, romance, or anything else. Start with ideating your story. What's the premise? How is it going to begin? How is it going to end?

Begin with a rough idea of where your characters are and where they need to end up. Then you need to start creating character personas. Even if you don't explicitly tell readers, what's your characters' backstory? Then you need to figure out what scenes you want to happen. This could easily be how you work on it everyday.

Each day you could take one scene, and write three pages on what you want that scene to look like. After you've done this with every scene, then you can go back and start the same process for dialogue. And then for editing. If you do all this daily, you may even be able to create three or four books a year, with the fourth being significantly better than the first!

Let's say you want to be a screenwriter.

If so, I highly recommend you read 101 Tips From Highly Successful Screenwriters. You won't be disappointed. I also recommend you just start writing stories, without focussing much on camera angles and production values. Movies, like plays, are typically divided up into three acts. You preface the story, you give the meat, and then you resolve it.

What are your characters looking for? How are they finding it? Do they achieve what they're after? These are the steps you need to work through. And like the novelist example above, you can break this up into general scene ideas, dialogue, and editing to keep a daily routine.

In all of this, there's one critical thing you have to do. You have to try to improve every day. It's not like simple math homework where you just answer a few problems and move on. You have to be analytical about what you're creating.

You're familiar with the saying "practice makes permanent." If you just do the same thing over and over, you won't get better. You'll actually dig yourself deeper and deeper into a rut.

But if you're continually looking at how you can make your creations easier to read, your characters more complex, or your story more suspenseful, you'll be teaching everyone how to become a better writer before you know it.