How to Side Hustle Your Writing Career - #5: Honing Your Craft

Part 5: 4 Tips to Become a Better Writer 

 Photo by  wu yi  on  Unsplash

Photo by wu yi on Unsplash

 In the previous chapter in this series, we talked about developing a writing habit.

 

Once you consistently write, preferably every day, you’ll become better at your craft. Plus, you have something to work with and publish.

 

Only through action will you learn. Only by producing thousands – at some point millions of words will you become better at writing.

 

But there are more ways to continually improve your writing.

 

Study the Craft of Writing

 

#1: Read

I’ve mentioned this one a couple of times already in previous articles, but to become better at writing, you must study the work of others. Next to that I urge you to read non-fictional books about the craft.

 

Read good books

Study the greats, the classics and the revered authors, but do so wisely. Don’t read Anna Karenina because of the fact that it’s a classic, read it because you like the story. There are hundreds of good classic books out there, but not all will be your cup of tea. 

 

  1. Study one classic from before 1900 (for me The Picture of Dorian Gray — Oscar Wilde)

  2. One classic from the last century (The Fountainhead — Ayn RandThe Lord of the Rings — J.R.R. Tolkien)

  3. And one from the last decade or so (Shantaram — Gregory David Roberts, tied with the Harry Potter Series — J.K. Rowling)

 

What makes these books such classics? Is it because of their themes, their tone, the characters, style, morals, wit, …? How come they have stood the test of time? Can you find patterns between those three books?

 

Find patterns, find what you like in these stories and learn from them. Consciously or unconsciously, you will take what you have learned from these stories and put it into your own work.

 

Lessons learned from other authors

Recently I published a pieceabout the lessons I learned about writing from Stephen King’s Memoir ‘OnWriting’. 

 

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write.” – Stephen King

From his book I learned that you should write for yourself first, read, let go of your fear to impress, creating a good writing environment and writing a ‘crammy’ first draft.

 

In another book, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. She too, wrote about the iportance of writing shitty first drafts. Just go with it. Just work on your story. Don’t care about spelling, grammar or prose. Care about the story that comes out and the journey your characters are being taken on. YOU JUST NEED TO GET SOMETHING DOWN ON PAPER. You can fix it in a second draft (and a third, fourth, etc.). Polish later. 

 

In the book, Anne talks about perfectionism as the voice of the oppressor. Perfectionism can be your enemy when you get lost in the details.

 

“Writing is about telling the truth.” — Anne Lamott

 

Study (Medium) articles about writing

There are a ton of great writers on Medium for you to check out. People that can help you grow your following and improve your writing.

 

You can follow publications like Publishous & The Writing Cooperative. You can follow tags like ‘Writing’ and ‘Writing tips’. Explore, read and learn!

 

Study what you don’t know

Besides writing, there are other areas us writers need to brush up our knowledge.

 

If we want to get read, we need readers. Study marketing, social media and publishing. Google is your friend. Just like Medium. In the next section, we’ll look at different types of courses.

 

#2: Follow Courses

There are many authors who share what they’ve learned about writing. They do so in articles, but also in carefully structured courses. 

 

Go check out Udemy, a great tool for online learning. I followed the ‘Writing with flair’ course, which I can recommend. There are hundreds of courses on writing on Udemy. Also, if you want to learn more about marketing, growing your social media presence, building a website, or more, you can follow courses on Udemy too!

 

Writers such as Anthony Moore (click here for courses) and Tom Kuegler (click here for free email course) have made interesting courses, mostly directed at successfully writing on Medium.

 

I’d love to do a semester in Creative Writing in the Oxford or Cambridge at one point. Do you know that you can do this for free on Coursera as well? I haven’t found the time yet, but one of those courses is definitely on my list.

 

Try Different Types of Writing

 

#3: Fiction vs Non-fiction

I’m originally a fiction writer. However, when I realized what I learned in a short amount of time, I wanted to share that. With posts like these I want to help other writers find their way on their writing journey. Be it someone who is just starting out, someone who’s stuck, someone who wants some inspiration or someone who looks to improve a particular aspect of publishing your own work.

 

By writing these non-fiction posts, I’m achieving multiple things:

-      I learn to write differently, non-fiction writing takes a different approach

-      I’m able to help others

-      I earn more readers

-      I interact a lot more with readers

 

I wouldn’t just rely on solely writing fiction. I even grew to like writing non-fiction posts as much as fiction. 

 

So if you are a fiction writer, explore non-fiction writing. What have you learned? What can you teach? What did you solve that others need to solve too?

 

The same hold for non-fiction writers who never write fiction. I think writing fiction is a great way to further spark your creativity. Write poems, write short stories. You don’t even have to share them if you’re not sure about them (although I do encourage you to try!).

 

I wrote a piece about why writing short stories makes you a better writer:

https://medium.com/publishous/5-reasons-why-writing-short-stories-makes-you-a-better-writer-35421b75bcf8?source=friends_link&sk=4c1a6f4dd7016c0e72ddb84fd302ca14

 

Diversify your writing. See what happens. I love it!

 

#4: Try Different Subjects 

This one is pretty self explanatory. I write about different subjects because it’s fun, sparks my creativity, let’s me see what readers like, makes me diversify and explore. It’s great!

 

I write posts like these to help people to write (better). I write about business, mental health, lessons from books I read and of course short stories.

 

By writing in different categories you reach new readers, go find the subjects you like to write about. Develop your writing muscle. See what resonates.