Alex Limberg shares his personal writing journey. Reposted from Kristen Lamb’s blog. https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/4-powerful-ways-to-improve-your-writing/
Today, I want to […] highlight for you what has advanced me most in my writing. Hopefully these lessons will help you too, especially if you are at the beginning stages of creating fiction.
Any look back on a passion project must always be personal and a bit awkward. That’s because it matters so much to you.
When you start out writing, like with any new skill, what you are doing just feels clumsy and deficient. The ugly truth is, the beginning stage is painful for novices of any field. You have no clue about anything, and you don’t even have a feeling for what’s missing. You feel out of balance, like a bear starting to practice riding a unicycle.
In my case, that clumsy bear phase began when I was 14; that’s when I started writing with serious intentions. Gladly, while writing, I didn’t realize how far I was from where I wanted to be. Like the donkey following a crunchy carrot, it always seemed to me my goal was just around the next corner.
Internet was still a few years away, and I didn’t have any information about the most effective ways to sharpen my skills. I just followed my gut and did what my passion told me: To keep writing and pushing forward.
But looking back now, I can point out the four specific things I did that helped me more than anything for my fiction writing. Let’s take a look at them.
Oh, and I almost forgot: Like always, if you want a comprehensive, no-holds-barred list about what I learned makes a good story, download my free ebook about 44 test questions to make your story great.
Putting a Lot of Hours into Writing
If you take just one single thing from this post, let it be this one: You only learn by doing!
By far the most important thing you can do to get good at a skill is to practice it relentlessly.
Theory can be a shortcut, and it’s a good idea to study a bit how people more skilled than you have done it before you – but don’t get stuck with it. You will never be able to write well just from reading theory. That would be like trying to become a world-class tennis player by sitting on your couch, watching tennis and eating potato chips.
No, here is the only way to get good: You have to sit down on the cheeks opposite of your face and actually do it!
There is a rule that says you need about 10,000 hours to excel at a skill, and I found that number to be remarkably accurate: After roughly 10,000 hours of writing, I started to become really happy with the quality of my writing and my stories.
But back then, of course I didn’t know about that rule. I just knew that to have a finished book that I loved, I would need to have a finished book first.
And so I wrote. When the novel was done, I read it, and my heart sank to my knees – my writing was a lot worse than I had thought. But I still loved the story. So I wrote it again. And again. All in all, I wrote that novel four times.
And while putting in my hours and actually doing it, I became good.
Reading a Lot
Just like you probably do, I loved books, I loved stories, and I loved to withdraw and immerse myself in different, fascinating worlds. I was intrigued by exciting plot, strong characters and skillful dialogue.
I had started devouring books at age 6 and never stopped. By the time I started writing, I had already been through many bookshelves worth of literature, with many more to come. I just followed my passion. But what I didn’t know was that observing my role models shaped me excellently.
When reading fiction, your subconscious automatically absorbs the language, the patterns, the three dimensional characters, the plot structure.
When you constantly immerse your brain in stories and language, you can be sure that deep down a killer instinct for writing is built. You can’t help but learn.
You will be able to draw from this reservoir for all of your writing career. Even if it’s not a career.
Being Brutally Honest with Myself