22 Ways to Improve your Writing in 2022 - Part One.
Updated: Jan 6, 2022
While we’re all setting New Year’s resolutions, why not set yours around writing this year? In this new blog series over the next month, Mona’s Fiction editor (and writer herself), Lauren, outlines her top 22 things to focus on this year to improve your writing. Whether you dabble every now and then or you’re a serious career writer, there’s something everyone can do to push their writing to the next level in 2022!
1. Ask for feedback. This could be from a trusted friend, a teacher, a mentor or you could look into manuscript reading services that provide professional feedback. Mona provide free feedback sessions for both fiction and non-fiction pieces a few times a year, so watch our socials for these upcoming sessions. Importantly, ensure you seek feedback from readers in your target audience and, if you’re intending to commercially publish, your target market. Once you’ve got said feedback, it’s important not to take it personally. We can be sensitive about what we’ve written, think of it as our baby and be mortally offended if everyone doesn’t love as much as we do, but a successful author obeys the oldest and hardest adage of writing: kill your darlings.
2. Read it aloud. Whether it’s a paragraph or an entire piece, read it aloud. You can do this on your own or with someone listening. It’s helpful to get a sense of the tone of the piece, and whether that is as intended, as well as to assist with the evaluation of the veracity of dialogue, the sensory images you’ve created and, more banally, whether you’ve used punctuation correctly.
3. Read voraciously in the genre you’re writing. The more background you have of what’s out there, what’s been done and what works in the genre you yourself are dabbling in, the more chance you are of crafting something successful with those tropes, plotlines, character traits and themes. For those of you who protest: but what if I discover someone else has already written my idea? Don’t worry, there’s no such thing as an original idea in literature, the same plot and characters look totally different depending on who holds the pen.
Also, publishers are up on this stuff, if someone else has already written your idea exactly the way you were going to write it, they can sniff that a mile off, so best you know about it with enough time to abort mission.
4. Invest in a good writing guide. Most of these include practical advice from sage and well-seasoned authors, editors or publishers and they range from inspiring (think an authorial version of Braveheart’s famous speech) to minutely detailed and prescriptive. To find something that works for you, I suggest reading reviews and sneakily checking out what features on university creative writing course reading lists. Sometimes lecturers know what they’re on about. My well-thumbed favourites include: The Writing Experiment Hazel Smith (Allen & Unwin, 2005), The Writing Book Kate Grenville (Allen & Unwin, 2010), Making Fiction Shapely Jerome Stern (Norton, 1990), On Writing Stephen King (Hodder, 2000).
5. Develop a writing schedule and a routine. Your schedule must allow for life events, and don’t hold yourself to something that’s unrealistic. Decide whether there’s a time of day or day of the week that works best for you, and allocate an amount of time. It is far better to hold yourself to writing for 30 minutes than to chain yourself to a word count; you can still succeed in the former on a bad writing day. I recommend reviewing your schedule every month and see if it’s working for you. A routine is about the process you go through in each of your sessions. Perhaps you turn your phone off and make a cup of tea before your writing session starts, or you reward yourself at the end of the session. Maybe you start each session doing a short writing exercise (see the next blog post in the series for more on these) before you move onto your writing project. It is not the individual actions that matter, it is the way they signal to your brain to be ready to write when they are done in a repetitive sequence over a period of time.
6. Each time you write, write from where you left off writing last time. Don’t re-read what you’ve written in the sessions before prior to starting. Not only does this waste time (inevitably you will get bogged down in editing, trust me, even if you think just a brief skim) but it can also undermine your confidence and destroy any motivation or ability to write well in your current session. To facilitate this, it might be good to have a synopsis or very brief plan handy so you can locate yourself in the story and be off and writing.
7. Enter competitions that encourage you to take risks. Furious Fiction is a fantastic competition for that. Now running quarterly instead of monthly in 2022, the competition is run by the Australian Writers Centre and provides some parametres for writers to use in a piece of flash fiction. I enter this competition, not with the intention to win, but as an exercise in mental gymnastics. I challenge myself to write the most ridiculous thing I can with the parametres that still meets the criteria of flash fiction and can be said to have narrative elements. It encourages you not to take your writing too seriously and it also gives your brain a chance to sprout new ideas; perhaps a character, a setting, a theme, an issue might arise from the piece you’ve written. It works like a writing exercise, only the stakes are a bit higher, the intention more open and the criteria a bit wackier (also, you might win $500!).
8. Join a local or online writers group. Invaluable for feedback, advice and silent writing companionship, the ways writers groups are run around the country are as varied as the people who join them. Given that our audience is regional, rural and remote women, sometimes that can be harder said than done. Luckily, at Mona, we’ve started to make some really solid connections with writers groups all around Australia, including here in the Riverina, in the Central West of NSW, up in Queensland, and all the way over in WA. If you’d like to check out your local writers group but aren’t sure where to start, there are a couple of resources. Firstly, there is a directory on the Fellowship of Australian Writers site for New South Wales writers. If you are in Victoria, Writers Victoria has a directory on their website, as do Writing NSW on their website if you are in New South Wales, Writers SA if you’re in South Australia, Writing WA if you’re in Western Australia. Check out Writers Marketplace if you are in Queensland, or anywhere Far North. All of these sites also have online groups you can join regardless of your location if you don’t have a local group or would like a group that is based more in the genre in which you write or an element of your practice. You can also join women’s only groups or groups for those with disabilities.
Failing finding anything in those locations, check with your local library, as they often host and support local writers groups, and check social media (many groups have a Facebook page) and apps like MeetUp.
If there isn’t a local writers group near you, consider making your new year’s resolution to form one! If you need any assistance, contact us here at Mona and we can get you started with some resources as to how to go about it.