Like many other writers, I’ve always wanted to write. I started many novels as a child and teenager, but it wasn’t until November 2006 that I began the first one I finished. I wrote, and wrote, for three months, until I hit the end. Then I moved onto the next book.
I’ve started quite a few books since then, and even finished a few, and my writing has improved quite a bit. Some of this has been from reading craft books and articles online, some has been simply from practice. A lot has been through editing my novels to completion, working with editors, and publishing and receiving reader reviews.
Overall, the time between completing my first novel and publishing my first ebook was six and a half years.
That’s a pretty long time! I’m not saying everyone will or should take that long. Some will take a longer time, some will be ready much sooner! And some might well publish their first book or two before or after they reach the point I’m at now. (Whatever that point is!)
What I’m wondering is, with a concerted effort, can you speed up that process? With more time, could you read more how to books, maybe even get some mentoring or something, and reach a higher level of writing sooner? I’m sure that’s what every writer would like, to know the secret to improving their writing skills quickly.
For me, I don’t think so. I find that I can read and take in one or two pieces of information at a time, then I need to use those pieces of information several times, in real world situations, before I can call it part of my toolkit. Then back to the book/article to find the next piece, and apply it. Sometimes, I need to go through this cycle a couple of times with one piece of information. (Like removing ‘was’ from sentences, this takes a few passes of my manuscript to even make a dent in the numbers and situations in which they can be replaced with different phrasing.)
Ultimately, I think it takes time to improve our writing. And it takes a combination of reading techniques, trying them out, seeing if they work for us, then reading some more. Sometimes, it takes having someone else’s eyes or comments on our work (like a beta reader or editor), to help us grow to that next stage.
And of course, even once we reach a new stage of ability, there will always be more to go! There’s always new ways to improve our writing or stories, or even just to streamline our process so that we can achieve more in a shorter amount of time.
What about you? How do you find your process of improvement (in any skill, not just writing!) goes? How long has it taken you to get to the stage of writing skill you’re at now?
I think, like many careers, writing is one where you are always learning. Unfortunately there is no marker that says you’ve reached a certain point of proficiency. A doctor leaves university and completes a period of time of on the job training and is known as a ‘GP’ and there are set timescales around it. (Although the time it takes to train to be a doctor makes your 6 and a half years look reasonable!)
I follow a blog called Apprentice, Never Master and the title is based on a Hemmingway quote that says “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” I think that’s true. We get better, quicker, leaner, sharper, sell more books (hopefully!) but we are always learning.
I find in some ways I am less confident about my writing the more I write and the more I read. That initial high of completing my first manuscript, when I felt like a ‘writer’ has long since evaporated, now I know how poor a writer I really am. But I want to learn and grow. I think we all just have to do it at our own pace.
I’m about to open the document from my proofreader, so I’ll tell you how much more I’ve learnt by the end of the week!
Yes, I don’t think we’ll ever be ‘finished’ learning, to write, or to do anything else!
Good luck with the proofreading!
I think practice does a LOT to help us hone our skills. I started writing as a kid, too: mystery stories in third grade. I was obsessed with Nancy Drew 🙂
Yes, practice is very important.
I wonder if what we enjoyed reading as kids has any bearing on what we right now? For me, not so much, or I’d be writing horse stories!
I’d totally be writing crime thrillers, haha! instead I write about sorcerers and a fake kingdom…. a far cry from where I started reading
I think you are right. That’s probably why all of the great authors advise that we write, write, write and write some more.
Yep, writing is the surest way to get better at writing!