Last month I shared five things you can do not tomorrow, not next week, but today to improve your fiction writing. I talked about the need to write every day, and read craft books, and join online writing communities.
Here are five more things you can do right now to improve your fiction writing!
1. Buy a notebook, and keep it on you at all times.
On one hand, I do believe that the very best ideas stay with you. The best ideas you don’t necessarily need to write down.
But almost daily a tiny nugget of inspiration will hit me at the oddest time, and I’m always thankful I have a writing notebook nearby to jot the idea down.
I currently have three notebooks. One next to my bed. One in my backpack. One on my writing desk. They are all filled with random notes about short story ideas, novel ideas, character bios, Medium story ideas, to-do lists, recipes, pretty much anything you can think of.
They are not organized the way I’d like them to be. It’s definitely not easy to find that idea I wrote down two months ago.
But it’s there. And I can always go searching for it whenever I want.
Notebooks are super helpful for your writing. They are important to have around, trust me.
If you’re serious about writing, you should absolutely have at least one notebook with you at all times. And you should try to write in it at least once a day if possible.
2. Read at least an hour a day — in a variety of genres.
I’ve written a lot on Medium about why reading is simply an essential practice for anyone who wants to be a writer. Stephen King has said why. Pretty much every major author has said why at some point.
Because reading is the way you learn how others do it. Reading is the way you learn what works and what doesn’t.
And of course, reading is a total blast. Even though I’ve written nineteen novels and have been writing pretty much every day for the past ten years, I’m in no way sick of the written word.
I still love to read. Just this morning I spent forty-five minutes with David Lynch’s new autobiography, and I truly did savor every sentence.
So read, and read often. Try for one hour a day. At least thirty minutes will work. I like to read in the morning because it’s always a nice way to start the day, but anytime will work, really.
And don’t just read one kind of thing. If you write mystery fiction, don’t only read mystery fiction (although you should definitely read a lot in whatever genre you write in).
Read a mix of adult literary fiction, MG and YA fiction, and non-fiction. Read what you want!
You’ll never be a great writer if you don’t ever read anything.
3. Watch one film every day.
The same way reading is important in your writing life, I absolutely believe with my whole heart that watching films (and television) can help you as a writer.
I try to watch one movie every day. Lately it’s probably five films per week. What’s great about watching a movie (besides being one of the great ways to truly relax, in my opinion) is that you can always find at least one writing takeaway from any movie you watch.
Great films, good films, mediocre films, terrible films. Doesn’t matter.
There’s always something about the storytelling or the characters or the pacing or the themes that you can transfer to your writing. I’ve been watching films like a writer for years, and what’s so great about doing this is that you can still watch the movie as a movie. You can still chow down on your popcorn and enjoy yourself.
But at the same time, you can analyze elements of the movie that you can then use later for your writing. And you can have fun while doing it!
4. Find one or more writing partners you can share your work with.
I’ve written a lot about this on Medium as well. About how I didn’t let anyone read my work for years before I started querying my novels to literary agents. About how not letting other people read my work and give me feedback early on… basically guaranteed these novels never went anywhere.
One of the best things you can do for your writing career right now is find at least one writing partner you can share your work with. Your short stories. Your novels. Your poetry. Your non-fiction. Whatever it is that you write.
Somebody you can rely on who will be honest with you. Not someone who will read your latest draft and say, it’s really good, I don’t think you need to fix anything.
Last year I found three amazing people to read my MFA thesis novel, and they all gave me pages of super helpful feedback. This part of the process helped better that novel considerably.
Having at least one writing partner will keep you on track, keep you energized, and will in the long run improve your writing, I guarantee it.
5. Submit your work constantly.
I’ve always been a big believer in submitting something every single day. A query letter of your novel to a literary agent. Your latest short story. An older short story. A poem. An essay. Whatever.
Submitting constantly will help you as a writer for a number of reasons.
First, submitting work all the time gives you more opportunities to be published or to sign with an agent. Submitting every day brings with it all sorts of potential. Every time you get a new e-mail, it might be a piece of great news! It might be someone saying, hey, we like this, we want to publish it.
Second, submitting work all the time will make the rejections sting a little less. When you have so much floating out there in the world — say, 100 query letters to a novel, seven short stories, and three poems, all at the same time — the rejections pouring in won’t matter to you as much because there are simply so many more editors and agents you haven’t heard from.
Third, submitting work all the time will inspire you to write even more. Instead of obsessing over one thing for months — say the revision of your latest novel or the latest short story you’ve penned — you will be on to the next project, writing the hell out of something new and fresh while that last project is out on submission.
You’ll keep writing every day, and that’s always the schedule you should stick to if you want to be successful.
So don’t be afraid to send out your work. You’ll never get anywhere in your career if you keep your stories and novels in the drawer forever.
One thing you can do right now is re-read one of your latest stories, and send it to two or three literary magazines. Give it a try right now! You’ll be amazed how great it will make you feel.
And how much you’ll suddenly want to write the next thing.