Alright guys, there’s not going to be much preamble with this one so let’s get straight to it. The fastest way to improve writing is to learn all the mistakes, how they arise, and how to fix them.
That simple, let me tell you why.
When you’re first starting out, you don’t know anything about writing. Like, at all. Sure you have a rudimentary and intuitive knowing of the mechanics but none of the psychology as to how it works. Therefore, you know nothing of the mistakes you’re bound to make when you write that first draft.
This is where writers get trapped for years.
Because they never bother to research and target mistakes (thinking that if they do, then they’ll make those mistakes as well, like I did for some time) because they don’t want that kind of negativity when they’re writing, and they don’t want to encourage the perfectionist inside to go searching for mistakes while they’re trying to finish the damn thing in the first place.
Valid reasons, but not valid enough.
You don’t do research while you’re writing your draft, you do research while you’re not writing your draft. During your off time, you need to learn the common mistakes, how they arise, and how to fix them. I would suggest starting with just five or ten, to be safe (you definitely don’t need too much negativity in your life.)
They key here is to find the top three to five mistakes you make in your writing and develop an eye for them on the macro level (micro level is a different story but the same principle) because that’s where most of the revision happens. That’s where the pieces get shuffled around until they’re just right.
Example: I tend to shift tenses, use awkward phrases, and my stories tend to have logical fallacies. Those are my top three mistakes. How do they arise? Not editing. How do I fix them? Editing. Just one problem, what the hell do I edit?
The problem here in this example (and one I’m currently facing) is I can’t tell the difference between an awkward phrase and a non-awkward phrase because when I look at my writing, it looks good. Because it’s my writing and I think it’s perfect.
So, how do I get back to reality? Research, a lot of research.
I would need to look up tenses, awkward phrases, and logical fallacies, see how they arise, and learn how to fix them. Then, with my newfound knowledge, I would go through all my current and past writings and develop a keen eye for where each occurs and edit out only those things (for that’s how you get good at spotting something). Then, after eliminating tense shift after tense shift, awkward phrase after awkward phrase, and logical fallacy after logical fallacy, I will develop a sharp eye toward these mistakes and eliminate them from my writing. Therefore, I will have improved my writing by at least 1%.
Get it? Got it? Good.
As always, that’s my spiel on the subject.
Till next week. . .