What is Improving, Anyway?

All around us we see stuff about improving as writers. I’ve even said vague things about “can improve writing” or whatnot in various things that I’ve written.

But what does this even mean?

I’ll be the first to admit I have a hard time separating my writing into it’s individual parts. These individual parts are important in being able to do things like: be able to tell what the problem is. Pinpoint specific areas that need improvement. Actually figure out how to improve.

I’ve always just been told that I’m a good writer, and have always succeeded in classes – and maybe that’s to my disadvantage. I haven’t learned how to improve; or more accurately, I’ve never learned how to deliberately improve. I’ve improved over time but I’m not sure how I did it.

So maybe it’s just my issue. But really, what are the signs of improving writing?

I realized the other day that the sentences in my current manuscript have become increasingly short and clear. Supposedly that’s a thing, though I worry I’m going the other direction. I’ve also been noticing superfluous filter words and have started to realize when I write them (I’m also seeing them in other works and have started editing a bit in my head, while is only slightly distracting), but am a little worried I’m losing style. Yesterday I noticed a few parts in my manuscript that didn’t seem to fit with the character’s personality and tweaked it to sound more like her, which I figure is pretty important. I’m noticing certain scenes that seem to be slowing down the pace of my novel and perhaps aren’t necessary.

This whole thought process started because I was researching more about author platforms and query letters. I got caught up and how awesome some people are able to write: clear, concise, engaging. And it just makes me feel a little hopeless that I’m never going to write like that, and don’t know how to improve to get there. I have a 118k word manuscript that could be utter crap for all I know, and every time I think I’m ready to start on the publishing road, something else catches my attention that needs to be fixed.

There’s a very good chance that self-doubt is the real thing stopping me. Lord knows we all suffer from that.

Anyway, that was a bunch of whining, now let’s all move on with our day.

Has anybody else encountered this problem? What areas have you pinpointed improvements in your writing? And what do you think helped the most?

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About R. K. Brainerd

I've been writing since my pre-teens, mostly in the realm of fantasy and sci-fi. My characters are pretty much always clamoring for attention, and if I don't listen, they plague me with insane dreams and nightmares until I start writing. I also raise dairy goats, the evidence of which can be found on my Instagram. My debut novel -- an alternate-history fantasy -- it set to come out in 2018, probably Fall time. Welcome to the adventure. View all posts by R. K. Brainerd

13 responses to “What is Improving, Anyway?

  • Sue, the YA Author

    I’ve so been there! My first novel sat on my little computer for three years. All that one I edited, I tweaked and worried and doubted. I couldn’t tell if it was any good. So, finally did it. I asked a friend to read it and thus began one of the most important steps on my journey as a writer. Feedback. I can’t write on a vacuum. Only with feedback have I been able to see my writing improve. At first I needed to hear from my writers group (yup, joined one and highly recommend it!) to feel I was improving. Now I now I’m improving because I see it in my stories. Each one is stronger. Each one is better. I still love my first story- always will- but I recognize my limited skills when I crafted it. Years later, I still struggle to fix all the blunders and plot holes.
    Sorry, long winded tonight. I guess the short answer is keep writing. Keep exploring your writing. Over time you may see how your improving! Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aspire to Fly

      Thank you! I’ve been working on finding people I trust who can read my manuscript – and I’m both really nervous and excited to hear what they have to say. It’s somewhere between feeling like I’m strangling small children and hey maybe I could be professional someday in my life! (Okay, strangling children might be a bit extreme). I know that the one I’m working on now is better than the first novel I wrote; I don’t know if that one will ever see the light of day, but I still love it. I’m able to see the improvement between that one and this one, which is pretty cool!

      I’ve done some research into writer’s groups in the past but didn’t find any really close to me. Maybe I should do some more research and see what’s happening out there.

      I like the long winded answer! Thank you for replying – and thank you for the luck. I appreciate it. All the best to you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sue, the YA Author

        I’m glad to hear you’ve ventured into the tricky world of feedback. Friends are good but the best feedback I’ve gotten is from other writers. There are online groups- but they require a lot of work. First you have to trust the group and then most are set up where you have to review 3 others chapters for every one you submit. If you can’t find a local group, you can always start one. Mine meets once a month at a central library. Mostly just keep on writing!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aspire to Fly

        Ok! Thank you for all of the advice 🙂 I really appreciate it!

        Liked by 1 person

  • Sue, the YA Author

    So many typos. So much for auto correct on my iPhone!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Arpita

    Hi! Thank you so much for following me. When I received the notification, I decided to pay your blog a visit, and I love what you have here. Looks like we both are on this beginner’s journey, though you have a manuscript to start with and I don’t.

    I like how you actually want to better your craft. You know, as a beginner, I thought I might not be patient enough for a novel yet. So I decided to start with short stories. I had been doing well, until I researched magazines to submit my writings to. I checked their previous editions and was amazed by the quality of writing. Somehow, I lost some faith in my writing (which is generally preserved by my friends and family). I was tired of not being able to express things as I wanted to which others seemed to do just fine. I started to cut the long sentences short, going back again and again to edit. Often, I try to restrict myself with a word count, so that I learn to use every word economically. I also found myself watching a few videos on punctuation on Youtube as I have always struggled with the comma.

    Like you, I am yet to figure out what helps best. But I have a feeling I will reach there! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aspire to Fly

      Thank you for sharing your story! We’ve all got our writing journey to figure out and our skills that we’ve got to improve, and everyone does that differently. It’s really easy to get discouraged about writing; it’s such a personal thing, and there are a lot of people who do it, and a lot of people who will put you down. It can be summed up in three words: writing is hard!

      I’m so glad to hear that you didn’t give up, and you’re improving! I can tell by what you’ve written here you’re doing good. 😛

      I started out really young with writing, which meant that I was able to blast through writing pages before the self-doubt and pessimism of being an adult kicked in. I think it helped instill good writing practice, though the novel I wrote then probably won’t ever see the light of day. Writing short stories is an AMAZING skill to have – I honestly struggle keeping things short, as my brain tends to go down rabbit trails. I’ve only recently been figuring out how to write short, meaningful pieces.

      I actually just finished my current manuscript, after years of struggling with it (I have a bit to work on for the ol’ keeping a deadline thing). I’m hoping that the struggle I went through was mostly due to being in college (no time!) and doing some drastic improvements to my writing – hopefully the next one I write won’t take so freaking long!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Autumn

    I know exactly what you mean! I feel as if I am always like “I will send my manuscript out by this date” but then just when the day comes around I find something else that needs to be fixed so I end up holding back…I finally sent it to some friends to read and their feedback has helped out so much! I told them to tell it to me straight. There were things I needed to fix, but no one writes a perfect book right away! I definitely feel more confident about my manuscript now. I wish you luck with your writing! =)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aspire to Fly

      Yes! Someone else shares my issues, lol. I’m just about to give my manuscript to a few friends for the first round of feedback. *deep breath and wince* We’ll see how it goes!

      You’re right! No one writes a perfect book and everybody has to improve somehow. 🙂 I’m so glad to hear that your journey is doing well! Thank you for the luck, and all the best with your writing adventures!

      Liked by 1 person

  • When Reading Crappy Fiction… | Aspirations of Flight

    […] … I’m finding that I can actually learn a few things. You probably know that most people recommend that writers consume high-quality literature, thus giving great examples of writing of which to draw upon. There’s a lot of unconscious work that is going on here, as many of us lead by example and pick up good habits this way. ( <– Yet another example of me saying vague things about improving writing that I talk about in this post) […]

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