How do you become a great writer? Here are some of my experiences that can help you develop your skills.
Develop your writing skills today.
BY PHILL FELTHAM
I remember a review I once read about one of my poetry books.
“The poet’s still in a phase of self-indulgence where it’s hard to tell if he has any promise. I’m sure his friends appreciate the little collection for what it’s worth. All it does for an old fart like me is make me nostalgic for the first time “it” happened.” — Donato Mancini
You’d think that these kind of comments would send a writer into depression. But if you’re a smart writer, you’ll call it constructive criticism. Donato was right. I was writing about unexperienced emotions. At the time though, they made sense to me. But, now I’m a little older with more life experience. I flip through the pages of that same book and say, “I can’t believe I wrote that.”
Experience. That’s the magic word. This is the underlying ingredient that makes great writers. Established author Mark Twain traveled the world sharing his experiences, inspiring many writers and travelers. However, his unhappiness led to depression and–who cares. Writers suffer anyway, right? Perfection is boring.
That’s another thing. It’s human nature to suffer and it’s our responsibility as writers to pen these emotions the best way possible. Through suffering we can educate others, and people are interested. I’m interested. Realistically, suffering doesn’t necessarily have to be the centre of your writing. Exciting moments can also be of interest to readers.
Besides experience, knowledge–used by itself or coupled with experience–is another important element to great writing. Experience gives you knowledge, but thorough research using the local library or Google–not Wikipedia–and talking to industry experts is vital to effective writing.
If you are interested in writing a story, magazine article, blog post, or book, choose your topic carefully. Knowledge and experience are a fantastic combination that can help shape an intriguing and unique story. Living abroad and travelling the world are my topics of choice.
Living abroad definitely gave me intriguing life experience. Not many people live in other countries, so dramatic stories intrigued others enough to read my tales of drama, culture, travel, and tragedy.
I have written and published many articles related to travel and living abroad: first-time travel jitters, culture shock, visa problems, among others.
It took me a year to gather enough courage to move to Taiwan. A myriad of emotions and thoughts cycled through my head once I left the country–experience, fear, you name it. After sorting through my emotional chaos with some experience under my belt, I was able to articulate everything on paper. These thoughts and emotions, as well as other noteworthy experiences, turned into stories published in magazines.
I notice most of my living abroad stories involve fear, suffering, and other heavy experiences. My travel articles, however, are lighter to write. For the most part, my travel stories involve sharing unique experiences of a certain city, country, or specific location. Admittedly, I sometimes write short articles detailing the country and/or city’s features without sharing experiences. This is not advisable. Sharing your knowledge and experiences from your point of view is what makes your stories unique.
Lastly, don’t take shortcuts with your writing. List all your experiences on paper, check and see which ones are unique, draft your article, revise, read aloud, and revise again. Always read your prose aloud; if some sentence or paragraph doesn’t sound right to the ear, don’t second guess it, change it. Revise again, and read aloud again. Once you’re done, ask a well-educated friend or family member to read your article. Gauge their interest level. Ask for valuable feedback–and, if necessary, make any revisions. Again, don’t forget to read your article aloud once you finish the revisions.
While you are writing, be diverse with your use of adjectives and adverbs. Use specific adjectives to describe your subjects and specific adverbs to describe your subjects’ actions. Proper writing gives readers the opportunity to go through your experiences themselves. Don’t write for you, write for your readers. iT!
Phill Feltham is a travel writer and editor for different magazines and publications. He is also Publisher of The Weekly Wanderer.