Writing skill is like a fine wine, it only gets better with age.
Actually, that’s not completely true. Although age and
experience can help develop writing skill, it also takes the desire to learn and the courage to take the critiques you receive into consideration. You can’t grow if you refuse to see the need and the possibility to do so.
The other day, I pulled out my old hard copy manuscript of Darkness Falling. With highlighters in hand, my mission was to find gems in the old work to build into Book Two. I was essentially drawing myself a treasure map. Although I’d already been editing for Book One, this was a different experience. Perhaps it was because the farther into the old manuscript I go, the less editing it’s already received. It could also be because I couldn’t instantly see the troubled spots or delete the fluff.
What I realized is how much I’ve changed as a writer over the years, and those changes are for the better. The foundations of the story for Darkness Falling were there, and they were solid. The execution in the storytelling, however; needed work.
I am not classically trained. In my short time at community college I didn’t take a creative writing class. I never went to university and I’ve never gone to a workshop. When I was younger I had the overconfidence of youth to thank for believing I didn’t need those things. Now that I’m older I face the constraints of time and money. Despite that, I’ve still changed and improved.
Where did this growth come from?
First of all, it comes from paying attention to the storytelling that is intricately woven into our society. Books are not the only place we can learn to tell stories. Film, music, video games, and journalism all have elements of story telling. By paying attention to them and the critiques they receive, we can also grow as writers as well.
Secondly, you can also learn from books about writing and also on the internet. Many writers take the time to blog tips and information for improving writing skills. Taking advantage of learning from peers and professionals is a great way to learn if you can’t attend a workshop.
Third, editing your own older work can actually be very beneficial. In my mind, the old manuscript for Darkness Falling was an epic adventure expertly woven over years of hard work, it just needed some polish. The reality is, it’s a long and rambling story by a young woman who still had a lot to learn. Being able to identify that within myself and edit it critically not only helps me now, but in the future as well.
Lastly, it comes down to practice and listening to the critique of others. It’s not easy to hear someone tell you that you fill your pages with run on sentences or that your main character seems flat and one dimensional isn’t easy. Getting to a point where you understand these comments are meant to help you improve rather than hurt is a big step in the direction of improvement.
I’m sure that in another eleven years I’ll be able to look back and see I’ve continued to grow as a writer.