Growing as a Writer: Learn from the Best

Hey there Epic Dreamers! Welcome to the first post in my how-to-grow-as-a-writer-themed series. On the last Thursday of every month, I’ll be writing on how to grow as a writer. If you are new to writing these post will be perfect for you to learn how to strengthen your writing skills. If you have been writing for awhile, these posts will be a great way to expand your knowledge and challenge yourself. And if you are a pro at writing, well, go ahead and leave because I have nothing to teach you oh wise one.

teach me wise one

If you have no idea what I’m talking about and are wondering why I’m doing these themed posts, read The Theme For 2019.

The first topic I chose for these posts is a bit obvious. It’s probably the first thing you would think of if you where coming up with ways to grow your writing skills. But I still thought they were worth mentioning because they will lay a foundation for the other things I’ll mention later on in the year that have helped me grow as a writer. This is the cement slab on which all your writer dreams will come true, so don’t skip it!

They all fall into one category: learning from the best. How does an artist learn to draw? By copying other artists. How does a composer learn to write music? First by learning songs that others have written. We learn from the wisdom of others who’ve gone before us. If we want to be better writers, then we need to find someone who is better than us and learn from them.

Since most of us don’t just have a writer sitting around outside our front window, sipping on some tea and writing dramatic prose in a leather-bound notebook while waiting for us to ask for their sagely wisdom, I’ve compiled some other ways to learn from the best. πŸ˜‰

 

1. Read Books on Writing

Again, this is a no brainer–most of you have probably read some books on writing–but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded (and if you’ve never read a single writing book, well it doesn’t hurt to be told to either πŸ˜› ).

Image result for I have to read mem

Books are a great way to get into the mind of fellow authors, and learn from those who have already gone through the process of writing a book so you’ll know what to expect through your own writer’s journey.

Here are some books to get you started.

Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee (Don’t be put off by the word “screenwriting.” This books is excellent for learning the technical side of storytelling. The things he discusses is just as applicable to novelists as it is to screenwriters.)

Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors by Brandilyn Collins

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

 

2. Conferences/retreats/classes

I may be a bit of a hypocrite for mentioning this since I’ve never attended any conferences or writing classes myself, but I’ve heard from others about how beneficially they can be so I didn’t want to leave them out.

Writer’s conferences, retreats, or classes aren’t just a good way to learn about the craft, but a great opportunity to meet fellow writers. Chances are, you’re the only one in your neighborhood or group of friends who is into this nerdy writing thing. Going to a write’s conference means (I bet you’ll never guess) there’ll be other writers around. It’s a great time to learn from others who are starting out, make friends with others make up worlds out of thin air, and finally have someone who gets why you can’t get into the latest book that everyone is talking about because the author did the unforgivable and described the main character by having her look into the mirror.

Image result for ariel looking into mirror

I would love to do one of these, but they can be a bit costly, which is why the next item is on the list…

 

3. Listen to podcasts

If they’re aren’t any conferences being held nearby and you can’t take of work to go to one, and classes aren’t in your budget (I hear you….”I’m an aspiring author for crying out loud! Do I look like I have money?), then hope of learning the secrets of writing isn’t lost. You can learn from the best in while wrapped in a fuzzy blanket and sipping on some hot chocolate (or while you’re doing mundane tasks at work like I do).

Image result for boring work gif

I listen toΒ Writing ExcusesΒ  all the time. The podcast was started by Brandon Sanderson (all you fantasy nerds like me just rushed to click the link) and hosted by him, Dan Wells, Howard Taylor, and Mary Robinette Kowal. They frequently have guest on the show as well.

I love this podcast because they cover so many topics. Everything from world building, to character arcs, to query letters, to self publishing…the list goes on and on. I feel like I could never exhaust their archives no matter how much I listen to them.

The other great thing is that they are only 15 minutes long (sometimes 20 πŸ˜› ) so no matter how busy you are, you can always squeeze in 15 minutes even if it’s just on the drive home from work.

 

Hopefully my little list inspired you to take a step in improving your writing. Whether you’ve been doing this for a few years or just started yesterday, we all need to continue learning about the craft.

So, what’s your favorite way to brush up those writing skills? Books, classes, podcasts? Let me know in the comments!Β 

 

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Growing as a Writer: Learn from the Best

  1. Great ideas! I’m one of those writer friends who goes to writing conferences, and I can testify that it’s very supportive and a great learning environment too. Plus you get to meet new writer friends in person! I’ve read a lot of craft books, but never heard of the three you mention, which just goes to show how many there are out there. I’ve gotten away from books that try to cover all advice about writing in a single volume and am focusing on those with more specific topics. Some of my favorites are Ronald Tobias’ “20 Master Plots and How to Build Them,” Orson Scott Card’s “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” and “Characters and Viewpoint” (although it starts off a bit slow), and James Scott Bell’s “Conflict and Suspense”. I never listen to podcasts, but I get much the same benefit from writing vlogs on youtube. Some of my favorites lately have been Hello Future Me; D.C. Fergerson’s Worldbuilding Dojo; Ellen Brock; and the Creative Penn.

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    1. There are so many writing books out there! I’m woefully behind on reading them. In all the time that I’ve been writing, I should have read way more writing books by now. My problem is that I love fiction too much. πŸ˜› When I starting thinking of what book I want to read next, a ton of fiction comes to mind and with all 200 of them on my reading list clamoring for my attention, I just don’t even think of books on writing.
      This year I’m going to make sure I read some though. πŸ™‚
      I watch Hello Future Me and Ellen Brock. They’re great! I haven’t heard of the others. I’ll have to check them out.
      Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to go to a writing conference. Maybe I’ll even see you there. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am usually reading at least two books at the same time — one fiction book in the evenings during relaxation time, and one writing craft or resource book at the table during meals. Although sometimes I get so into one book that I read it in both places, and that happens with all three types.

        I know people who have had very positive experiences at writing conferences and some who have hated them. Being at least a little extroverted is helpful in terms of getting to meet more people and feel comfortable. But even if you sit at the back and don’t talk to anyone, the sessions are great. I would suggest starting with a smaller conference if you can find one, with 100-200 people. That makes it easier to chat up a stranger at the reception, because you’ve been seeing the same person at three sessions so far. I have no idea where you live, but if you’re anywhere near California, I’d be happy to tell you more about the conferences I go to here.

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      2. I read two at once as well, though I don’t have a set time to work on either one…which is probably why I speed through the fictional book and get another before finishing half the nonfiction. πŸ˜€
        But lately my nonfiction has been stuff about relationships since my boyfriend and I are reading them together. So, books on writing have kind of taken a back shelf.

        I think I’d really enjoy a writing conference. That’s good advice to start out with a small one so you don’t get overwhelmed and so it’s easier to meet people.
        Well, I live in Alabama so I guess meeting my internet writer friend in real life isn’t going to happen anytime soon. 😦
        Maybe one day I can afford the plane ticket out there. πŸ˜€

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      3. That would be great! But for that small writing conference, you’re best off finding something local if at all possible. It can help you tap into other local groups and events, where you get to see the same people again. Like book signings and readings at libraries and cafes — until I got on the right email lists and facebook groups, I had no idea those were happening all around me (well, a bit of a drive, some of them, but doable).

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  2. These are all very good tips. I listen to writing excuses. At just 15 minutes or so I can make the time. In April, for vacation, I’m going to a writing workshop. It’s my way of getting away and learning at the same time. As for reading, I like to read and comment on other writers work. Everyone’s style is different, so I learn a little from each blog. Currently reading “Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: and have fun doing it” by Beth Barany.
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42862216-plan-your-novel-like-a-pro
    You gotta love that title…
    Thanks for the advice!

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    1. Another Writing Excuses fan! I love that the are quick and that they stay on topic. There’s so much information packed into such a short amount of time.
      Who doesn’t want to have fun while plotting? I’m adding that one to my reading list!
      I hope you have fun at your writing workshop!

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  3. I love Writing Excuses. I lean pretty heavily on that one to keep me writing. The Insecure Writers Support Group is also a big help for me. It’s a good way to socialize with other writers, even if it’s just online socializing.

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    1. Writing Excuses is awesome! I was lucky to stumble across it pretty early on. I’m pretty sure a good 70% of what I learned about writing stories came from them. πŸ˜€
      Hmm…that sounds interesting. I haven’t heard of that group before. I’m going to look them up.

      Liked by 1 person

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