While we are in the midst of the creative process, we often battle against self-doubt and insecurities. Our minds continue to wool over how desperately we wish we could do better in this area of plotting, or that area of creating believable dialogue, or that area of character development. What we wind up doing is blaming ourselves for what we still do not yet know.
It’s as if we are putting ourselves down for what has not yet been learned. As though we are responsible for our own ignorance. If we continue down this path, it can lead to defeatist thinking; a self-defeating frame of mind that sets us up for failure.
Just because you have not yet mastered a certain writing skill or plotting technique does not make you a bad writer; it means you simply have not as yet had the opportunity to polish that skill. You have not as yet had the opportunity to take it to a higher level.
Instead of putting self down for what one does not know, a better tack is to press in to a continual ongoing quest for learning. Time spent in negative self-talk can better be used by building knowledge.
What are some of the ways a novelist can build upon already existing skill sets? The list could be long and varied, but let’s consider a few.
This is first and foremost how you learn. You learn to ride a bicycle by riding. You learn to drive a car by driving. You learn to swim by swimming. You learn to write by writing. Simple. Every day that you work on your novel, or work on different types of writing exercises, your novel-writing muscles are growing and developing. (See my blog about flexing novel-writing muscles.)
It’s crucial that you are always reading. Read in the genre in which you are interested in writing. Read outside that genre as well. Vary your reading so you have a well-rounded introduction to basic literature.
When was the last time you read a book of poetry? Reading poetry is a wonderful way to appreciate concise phrasing, pithy descriptions, and the art of pacing and rhythm in words.
Want to enhance your skills at writing dialogue? Read play scripts – or copies of screen plays. They are made up of mostly dialogue. This is a fun way to learn.
Never stop reading!
For the most part, novelists must make their own way. It’s a lonely walk and one that is not always easy. However, there are those who have gone before and have left us with a huge body of knowledge regarding various writing techniques and strategies.
My bookshelves are filled to overflowing with books on writing. Most are dog-eared, marked up, and bristling with sticky notes. I have feasted on them for years. Have I always agreed with every word of every book? Of course not. Have they been of value to me? Inestimable value. Looking back over the years, I cannot begin to measure their worth. And this doesn’t even include the many books that I don’t own, but have borrowed from various libraries and soaked up more knowledge as it pertains to writing.
In essence, novelists become lifetime students of the art of novel writing. Rather than lament, learn!
But back to the predicament I touched on at the outset – that concern we have that we are yet lacking so many areas. Let me suggest that you periodically go back and reread your prior writings. This can be from a year ago, several years ago, or something you wrote only six months ago. This is a wonderful way to perceive where you were in your skills at that time, and how far you’ve come.
Realize and accept the fact that your novel-writing abilities are growing. Most likely you have never seen your fingernails actually growing. You know they need to be trimmed from time to time, but you cannot actually see the growth as it is happening. And so it is with your writing skills.
Appreciate the fact that as you write, your skills are growing. It can’t not happen!
Another highly effective way to boost your novel-writing skill growth is to take advantage of all that the Be A Novelist, Six-Month, Finish-My-Novel Challenge has to offer. I have poured thirty years of teaching, editing, writing and publishing knowledge and experience into this six-month course. Six full months of guidance and instruction. Guaranteed to light a fire under your novel-writing attempts and to launch you into a pattern of consistent writing! Check it out here!
Photo Credit © Dana Bartekoske Heinemann