Five years ago, I published a book. A short story of about 16 pages. It was my first attempt at anything publishing. Some of my friends were nice enough to patronize me and about two or three others bought the book. You can imagine how excited I was when I held the book for the first time and ran my fingers over it. I said to myself, so I could really do this?
Now at the time I wrote that book, I was just starting out as a writer, like a child learning to walk
Fast forward to some years later, I picked up that same book and I couldn’t believe I wrote it. If someone else had come to me with a similar content asking for my candid opinion before hitting publish, I would have pleaded with him to do some more work on the plot and the structure of the story. But you know, I didn’t quite see all of those issues then. In fact, I felt like a champion, like a guru. What happened? What has changed about me?
Growth. Improvement. That’s what happened to me. I grew. But it didn’t come by just sitting down and sipping fanta. I worked. I mean, I put in everything to get to the point I am. But the truth is, It was a gradual process. The little things I took seriously culminated in the progress I see today.
So how can a writer who desires to take writing seriously become better and more proficient? These five steps will certainly help you and in no time, you’ll see great improvement in your writing skills.
1. Write consistently.
If you wait until you are inspired to write, then forget it, you may not see any progress in your writing career. There are days I have had to stare at my screen, not knowing what to write but stare I did and on many occasions, ideas have popped up because I just would not give up.
Again as a christian writer, there were times when after my devotion, I would hold my pen wondering what exactly to write. At such times, I simply wrote out the scripture for the day in my journal and many times, from scribbling down a verse, stories and ideas would begin to flow.
You must be willing to do this, to give your best to what you love doing.
Now, this is where it becomes easy.
Plan to write something everyday. You don’t have to write 1000 words a day. Five or six lines for a start is good. At least you will be making progress.
Pick a topic, research on it and scribble something down. It could start with a few words and gradually you can increase the number of words.
Before the advent of Facebook, journaling was one of the ways I put down my thoughts out in the open. I wrote everything that happened in my life.When I was upset, excited, depressed, sad, confused. Everything. It was when someone read an entry from my journal that I decided it was best to leave out some personal details. But I must confess, it really helped my flow of thoughts.
Writing your day-to-day experiences in a journal is one way to get your thoughts in love with your pen. There was a journal I had where I wrote letters to myself. At a point, I became addicted to writing in that notebook. The truth is, the more you write, the easier it is for you to express your thoughts. As you keep writing, editing and sharing your work, you keep improving.
Every writer you admire now didn’t suddenly become proficient. They honed their skills. Every serious writer want to see growth in the way they pen down words. I do not want to remain this way five years from now. What writer does? If you do not start writing now, what improvement are you expecting to see?
2. Read widely. Read like a writer.
Can I ever say this enough?
He that loves reading has everything within his reach (Williams Gordon)
You cannot build quality writing if you do not read books. What are you going to write about in the first place? How do you expect words to get into your subconscious where they are stored until needed?
Depth is what differentiates an article from another and that can only come when books become your regular companion. In another post, Writing for Christ, I stated that anyone could decide to write but it was the content that determined the category it would be placed- quality or mere quantity.
There are some words and information that I cannot remember where exactly I got them from and sometimes I wonder where I saw those words. There was a day I was writing a story and a word jumped out of my head. I quickly wrote it down. Sincerely, I didn’t even know that word existed but when I checked the dictionary, I discovered it did exist and I had correctly used it in the sentence.
How did I get to know that word? How was I able to know that I could use it in that particular sentence? That’s the power of the subconscious mind. But your subconscious mind will have nothing to work with when it receives no information.
Again, read like a writer. It’s okay to enjoy those books but try as much as possible to take notes of phrases and words as you read. Highlight if you can.
Don’t set goals to read two books a week if you have never finished a book in 6 months. You’ll just burn out. Start with a chapter a day and you’ll be surprised how many books you’ll be able to complete in a year.
If you really have a passion for writing, then you must find time to read books. Fit it into your schedule no matter how busy you are.
3. Connect with other writers especially those in your niche.
There are communities where you can find writers who write in your niche. If you like to blog, reach out to other bloggers. If your writing style tends towards academics, then search for where you can find them. If you love literature, there are places where you can find other writers to learn from.
Don’t stay alone in your own world, feeling cool with the applause from family members and church members. Step out and reach out to other writers. I must categorically say that a huge turn in my writing career started when I connected with some writers on Facebook. It’s true that sometimes by stepping out, you may encounter rejections but that shouldn’t deter you from connecting with others. There are some who will gladly share their experiences with you.
When I got serious with blogging late last year, I stumbled on this wonderful community of christian bloggers. There I was able to share my thoughts, learn from others and see what other christian bloggers were doing.
If you sit there waiting for miracle to happen in your career or ministry as a writer, be sure you’ll remain in the ghetto for a long time.
4. Be opened to criticism.
If you are a very sensitive person like me and you want to write well, you will have to learn to separate your emotions from objective opinions about your work. If you are very proud and get offended when someone shows you certain areas about your work that needs improvement, then be ready to remain at the spot you are.
You should even be grateful that your work is being analysed by good critics. By the way there are people who just love to be pessimistic about everything. Don’t waste your time with people who have nothing to say beyond, ‘Your work is bad,’ ‘You can’t even write.’ Trust me I don’t take criticisms like that seriously. But people who read between the lines, who aren’t out to spite you can be of great help to you.
5. Be patient with yourself.
Yes, I know how you want thousands of people to read your article or buy your book. We all want to see tons of readers or viewers glued to our work. You are depressed over the low feedback and the fact that people don’t seem interested in your work. I can relate to that… I can also imagine how many hours you spent putting in your best into those articles. I also understand the fact that comparing yourself with other writers has left you really depressed and in despair.
You better don’t give yourself heart attack biko. Be patient and focus on improving your skills. Your progress may seem slow now but if you keep at it, you’ll be surprised at how far God can take you. Let me encourage you with this verse of the scripture.
Seeth thou a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men. Proverbs 22:29
Be sure you have a passion for writing and not because you are amazed at how influential a writer is. We cannot all be writers. Everyone should excel in the gifts deposited in them.
If you have a deep conviction that God has called you to do this, then your part is to stay put and learn all that is necessary to excel in that area.
Are you a writer? What steps have you taken to improve your writing skills. I’d love to read them in the comment section below. Do share this article with other writers that you know.