Practice Makes Perfect: Challenging Yourself to Become a Better Writer

As I mentioned the other day, I’m a fan of Scott H. Young’s blog on rapid/holistic learning. He’s been doing a free bootcamp via email, and he had an interesting challenge today.

Practice is necessary for perfection, but it matters what you practice and how. For instance, you’re not going to become a better writer if you just write random words or sentences; you need to have specific goals.

Also, you need feedback. If you don’t know you’ve made a mistake, practicing it will just cement the wrong thing in your brain!

Studies have found that people working a problem (like a math problem) learn faster/better if they know immediately if they got the answer wrong. Once you move on to another problem (or another subject, or another day), your brain cements that wrong answer/wrong method. It’s much harder to go back and correct yourself later.

Unfortunately, writing doesn’t typically have immediate feedback or metrics that are easy to reach. But, you can set yourself practice goals and if you blog, you can get feedback. (It’s not exactly instantaneous, but definitely better than nothing.)

My Goal

One thing that I have trouble with is being brief. I’m not bad about being repetitive (I don’t think!), but I do go on at length. That’s great when I’m writing a novel (most of the time), but not so much when I’m writing a blog post. 300-600 words is the sweet spot for blog posts.

(I also need to be better about making smaller paragraphs, using more subheadings, and more descriptive/SEO-friendly blog titles.)

So, my challenge for November is to keep all of my posts to 600 words or less. This may mean breaking up big ideas over multiple days (because I will maintain my rule about one post per day, unless there’s some really breaking news). Of course, with it being NaNo, too, I don’t have a lot of time to spend blogging, so this can keep me on task.

Your Goal?

As a writer, what is something that you struggle with, and how can you practice it?

  • Do you have trouble meeting writing goals? Can’t keep ass in chair? Do NaNo!
  • Do you have trouble blogging every day? Try Plinky for post ideas. Or read other blogs and post your own take/response to something you’ve read.
  • Do you feel you’re bad at dialogue? Write some and post it to your blog for critique. Or take bad dialogue and try to make it better (something I’ve tried with Varney the Vampire).
  • Do you need to learn to read critically? (This helps you edit/proof your own work.) Vow to read a book every 2-4 weeks and then review it on your blog. Don’t just give it a thumbs up or down, but write your review as if the writer is paying you to copy-edit. (It’s better to go with cheap romances, westerns, free novels on Smashwords, or discounted books; they’re more likely to have major flaws.)
  • Write your own challenge below. Just take something you’re not good at and find a way to practice doing it for a month.

(527 words in this post!)

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One comment on “Practice Makes Perfect: Challenging Yourself to Become a Better Writer

  1. Another good post, as always. I forgot about Plinky. Thanks for the reminder. Don’t worry about the 600 words when it’s time for another Bloodsuckers! 😉

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