Become A Better Writer
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Lots of people think becoming a better writer is down to some kind of special magic. This is not true. Whilst getting better is a lot of work, it’s actually just like anything … You have to PRACTICE!
But how do we do this? Well, I sat down and put some thought into a short 10 day programme that will help you become a better writer. You can do each day consecutively, or you could do each step as and when you can. Ready? Then let’s go …
Day 1) Commit!
First things first … Work out WHAT you want to do, committing to concrete goals. Lots of writers start a project, but run out of steam and never finish. Other times, writers may finish but then have no clue what to do next. Or they may try to send their work out, get nowhere, then give up. Eek!
The above happens because those writers don’t know what they’re doing. If we want to become better writers, we have to be able to see projects through, from development to completion to submission.
So today you need to figure out WHY you want to write a particular project, as well as WHAT you will get out of it. This needs to also include practical things like HOW you will get it done and WHEN BY. Yes, spend a whole day on this!
Day 2) Get Motivated
Do whatever it takes to get motivated to meet those goals you set up on Day 1. This will likely be personal, but may include …
- Creating your book cover, movie poster or Netflix listing
- Reading motivational quotes
- Imagining telling your friends and family about your book or script deal
- Making Pinterest boards of concept art or actors who would play your characters
- Visualising your characters as real people
- Creating a playlist of music as the OST of your story
I do ALL of the above. Whatever floats your boat! You can revisit all of these for further inspiration when your project gets really difficult further down the line (because it will!). MORE: 12 Motivational Quotes To Bring Out The Writer In You
Day 3) Analyse
Becoming a better writer is about appreciating what goes into a successful story … But note that ‘successful’ does NOT necessarily mean whether we personally like it!
Good writers realise their opinions are not facts. It’s still possible a book, movie or TV show we dislike is well-crafted. In order to appreciate this, we should take a look at something outside our usual wheelhouse today. It can be a spec script or book, or produced or published content.
Day 4) Develop your structural toolbox
Good writers do the work of developing their structural toolbox. They read around the subject and work out they see structure working. They develop a vocabulary for describing the issues with their own work.
Lots of writers believe structure is somehow ‘accidental’ or that they need script editors to tell them where they’re going wrong. This is BS. So today, it’s your job to research and decide how YOU see structure working!
Day 5) Study characterisation
Most writers understand a protagonist needs to want something and that the antagonist gets in the way of that somehow. Beyond that, they may be much more hazy on supporting characters … As for stuff like peripherals?? Forget it!
Today your job is to check out how character motivation works in relation to role function. You may also want to think about stereotype versus archetype, plus how tropes work.
Day 6) Identify concept errors
Concept, premise, central idea, seed of the story … Whatever you want to call it, there’s a kajillion (actual number) concepts online.
Today, your job is to find some … They can be produced ones (like on Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb) or spec (such as on Bang2writers, Shooting People, #Pitmad on Twitter etc).
Now ask yourself … do you understand how this concept works? If not, why not? Is it a problem with the logline, or does the actual idea feel muddled? Spend the whole day really immersing yourself here and get a feel for how pitches go wrong.
Day 7) Learn about audience
NEWSFLASH – absolutely no story on earth is ‘for everyone’. But it’s rare that writers truly understand how audience works. This can include pro writers and is the #1 reason why so many burgeoning writing careers fade away.
The writers who have longevity really nail …
- WHO their scripts and novels are for (target audience)
- WHY this target audience likes certain things & dislikes others
- WHAT the writers need to do to get/keep this target audience
So today on our quest to become better writers, you need to research how audience works. Start by finding stories *like* the ones you write and working out the above.
Day 8) Get fast
Working out what you need to do to get faster at writing is a must in becoming a better writer.
For me, I discovered that breaking my projects down into daily word counts really helped. I also use the Freedom app on my phone, plus I switch off Facebook, Twitter, etc on my MacBook.
Pro writers say NEVER read through your previous day’s pages at the beginning of the session. This works well for me, too. I am only allowed to do this at the end of the day, once I have done my words.
I also found that forbidding myself from going down the ‘research rabbit-hole’ also made me a lot quicker, ie. …
Need a little research detail, or maybe a different word from the thesaurus? I AM NOT ALLOWED ONLINE TO DO IT.
I am also not allowed more than one minute to think about this. This means, if I get brain-freeze I simply highlight the passage in my writing and come back to it later.
Day 9) Do peer review
Today, it’s time to put ourselves out there and give something to the writerverse. Doing peer review reminds us others have the same struggles we do. It also gives us the chance to put everything we have learned about analysis and the craft into practice. What’s not to like?
Day 10) Create an ideas pool
Today, it’s time to create what I call an ‘ideas pool’. This means I never worry about coming up with ideas, or fixing existing ones … Because there’s always plenty more where those came from!!!
To do this, I use writing prompts and free writing. I literally shake stuff up and see what falls out of my brain. They may be whole stories, single moments, characters, snippets of dialogue, ANYTHING.
Then I interrogate those ideas, to make sure I am not simply rehashing anything accidentally. I also combine various ideas, tropes and themes to create new ones.
In other words, NEVER go with just your first idea! Why not give it a try yourself? Warning, it’s addictive and may take more than one day.
Come to my next course …
My course with LondonSWF, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING is perfect not only for wannabe script readers, but savvy writers who want to know how script readers work. Can you afford to miss out?? The next one is May 2-3, 2020 at historic Ealing Studios.