I’m often asked this question by new writers; what can they do to become a best-selling author. There isn’t one answer. Chart-topping authors have been asked that question since time began and everyone will give you a different answer.
Some authors suggest isolating themselves because the solitude and lack of distractions help their craft. Others suggest joining a writers group where you share and critique each other’s writing. Of course, the standard answer is to simply write; daily writing helps to improve your writing.
So let me weigh in on the discussion. The number one tip for becoming a better writer?
Read often, Read everything. Read and reflect. The more you read, the more you’ll learn. Select different authors, genres, time periods and here’s what you’ll learn:
- How to open a story. Does the author capture your attention from the first page, the first paragraph or do you have to read several chapters before you are hooked.
- Are the characters fully developed or perhaps over described. Which do you prefer? Can you picture the characters in your mind? Do you relate to them and their circumstances?
- What is the balance of description to dialogue? James Michener is an author famous for description. I swear it took him until page 100 before he introduced people into his book He starts with the earth’s core and works his way out.
- Speaking of dialogue, is it believable? Can you easily tell who is speaking?
- Emotion and conflict; does the story make you feel something?
- Does the author “tell” or “show?”
- How is the story told; first person, third person, by one person or several?
- Is there a clear arc to the story? Does it carry you along?
- Is it predictable or take you by surprise? If there is a twist, does it makes sense or feel like it was thrown in at the last minute?
- How does the author transition between chapters?
- Is the ending satisfying?
For each of these questions examine how you feel and then look for specific examples of how the author accomplished success.
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” ― Ernest Hemingway
We can also learn from bad literature. Examine what is missing that makes it a poor read, in your opinion.
Stephen King has written an amazing book entitled On Writing, in which he shares his own personal experiences as a writer and offers wonderful tips, examples, exercises and more.
He offers this advice:
“We need to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them.”
Looking for additional resources?
Mary Jaksch, Editor-in-Chief of Write to Done, has written an article entitled How to Be a Writer: 201 Compelling Tips
33 Unusual Tips to Becoming a Great Writer by James Altucher offers a few unique examples worth checking out.
Finally, check out 10 Keys to Becoming a Successful Writer: An Agent Spills Secrets By: Chuck Sambuchino in which he uses the letter “P” to share his thoughts.
Whatever tips, exercises or tactics you employ remember this; writing is not a passive sport. It requires action and lots of it.
What have you tried? What works for you? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments or visit us on Facebook and share.