A lot of us remember those questions on college or job applications that ask to explain how we were “well-rounded.” *insert groan* Later, we realized that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing to have exposure to something other than our main focus. Being a well-rounded writer can be beneficial, too! There are a few ways, some obvious, some less so, that can help your writing.
The most obvious way to make yourself a better writer is to, surprise, write a lot. The more you write, the more familiar you’ll be with the physical act of doing it. You’ll find out what works for you and what doesn’t and maybe learn about who you are as a writer.
A little less obvious:
READ. I see a surprising amount of people who say you don’t ever have to read to write well. And I guess you don’t have to read to write, and there are exceptions to those who write well, but I can’t think of another skill that you don’t have to study other professionals to do it well. Athletes study other athletes (even if just their teammates or their coaches). You gain so much by seeing how those who have made writing a profession do it. And reading other books is similar to reading case studies in school. You get to see how certain aspects of writing are used in the real world of publishing.
Also, read outside of your genre. Each genre has its strengths and weaknesses, and you can learn how to handle your genre’s weakness by reading those with that strength. For example, thrillers tend to have less character development since they’re one of two genres that is plot-driven rather than character-driven. To help with that, I try to read YA (which I realize is a market, not a genre), usually fantasy, because it would probably die if it wasn’t heavy on the character focus.
In that same vein, try writing in different genres. I experimented with fantasy, suspense, action, and paranormal short stories to help me further grasp how other genres expand on their strengths. It’s one thing to read how others put the words together. It’s another to put them together yourself.
Try studying the craft. Before writing my first novel, I read several books on writing (including Stephen King’s On Writing, which I highly recommend). These helped me to see how other authors had succeeded and advice they have for new authors. Included in that, I did also read a grammar guide (super interesting reading /s), but it helped me to understand the current rules and standards of grammar in writing.
Engage with other writers. Utilize Twitter, community message boards, or Facebook groups online or writers groups and organizations in person, and interact with them. They’ll also share insights that you may not have thought of. They can act as critique partners or beta readers, which will both help you get eyes on your work and help you grow as you both give and receive feedback.
Least obvious, but very beneficial:
Take care of yourself as a person. Eat right, exercise, and treat yourself.
Your body works hard for you, so help it out. This isn’t saying that you have to exercise vigorously every day; just take walks every once in a while. I wrote about the importance of rest days in last month’s blog post. Take them! Your body will thank you!
And lastly, go try new experiences. Go skydiving, go visit the Grand Canyon, pick up a new hobby, try new foods. Not only will these help develop your creative outlets, but they’ll also give you new things to write about!
All of these things can be used to build yourself into a better writer. Take some of my advice, take all, or take none–you do you–and let me know how it works out!