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When did you know your writing had improved? And what did it? (1 Viewer)

Llyralen

Senior Member
Something I wrote in March that I thought was my very best, now seems a bit boring and I will need to re-write it.

I think I improved because I completed a novella in present tense (which I think automatically attuned me to thinking of immediacy and relevancy to plot) and learned to edit for more punch.

What have you done that you know improved your writing? I would like to have many improvement experiences!
 
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Lawless

Senior Member
A very interesting question. I noticed that my vocabulary improved significantly between the ages of (approximately) 15 and 25. That, I think, was what skyrocketed my ability to write.

Maybe it had something to do with beginning to do translations around the age of 21. Or maybe it had to do with increased communication with women?

Or maybe as I grew up I became less afraid of writing things that would have sounded intolerably silly to me the teenager?
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
Llraylen, I understand how what seems to be our very best seems rather not-so-good when read later on. Been there many times. Just last night I read an introduction I wrote, which I thought was good enough a couple of weeks ago, but then with my new reading it's clear the intro needs a lot more work. A whole lot more.

One clever writer said it's best to treat what we write as if they might turn out to be changelings. The writer (can't think of his name at the moment), says we should keep an eye on the new births for a month or so to determine what they actually are and then we can decide whether or not they should be released into the world.

There's another thread going here on adverbs and I've been busy giving that a quick initial study. I'm surprised at what all I didn't know about adverbs. So learning new information like that can most likely improve our writing. (We're so lucky we can all come together and discuss these things.)

There's an annual poetry contest I like to enter (I've won several times). I use the month or so before entry deadline time to revamp almost all my poems. No matter how long I've worked on them, they all turn out to be in need of more work. If you're a serious writer, and it sounds like you are, you'll have many, many, many "improvement experiences." Best of luck with it.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
Llraylen, I understand how what seems to be our very best seems rather not-so-good when read later on. Been there many times. Just last night I read an introduction I wrote, which I thought was good enough a couple of weeks ago, but then with my new reading it's clear the intro needs a lot more work. A whole lot more.

One clever writer said it's best to treat what we write as if they might turn out to be changelings. The writer (can't think of his name at the moment), says we should keep an eye on the new births for a month or so to determine what they actually are and then we can decide whether or not they should be released into the world.

There's another thread going here on adverbs and I've been busy giving that a quick initial study. I'm surprised at what all I didn't know about adverbs. So learning new information like that can most likely improve our writing. (We're so lucky we can all come together and discuss these things.)

There's an annual poetry contest I like to enter (I've won several times). I use the month or so before entry deadline time to revamp almost all my poems. No matter how long I've worked on them, they all turn out to be in need of more work. If you're a serious writer, and it sounds like you are, you'll have many, many, many "improvement experiences." Best of luck with it.
This right here is a JEWEL! Changelings and time. When I’m writing a poem, at the moment it is hard to be objective.

This is such great advice!

DIdn’t Stephen King say once that he edits this way… waits a few months until the writing seems like someone else wrote it.
I can see your method doing a lot for me!! Thank you very much for this!
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
A very interesting question. I noticed that my vocabulary improved significantly between the ages of (approximately) 15 and 25. That, I think, was what skyrocketed my ability to write.

Maybe it had something to do with beginning to do translations around the age of 21. Or maybe it had to do with increased communication with women?
Translating sounds like a great experience. I always think of the translators of writers like Tolstoy and poets like Naruda. It seems like they would have to be almost equally gifted somehow. There would be a lot to study. There is a very famous Danish poet who Rilke said was his biggest inspiration, but I don’t think his poems have ever been translated. Danish is my second language and I’m only barely what might pass for fluent. (Is everyone here surprised I am a native English speaker? I blame all my typos on arch nemesis Mr Auto-Correct, though). As for speaking more to women. That’s true. On behalf of all women, I take full credit for any improvement to your writing. (Man, That really did charm me to hear you say).

But I’ve thought of how much it would teach me about poetry to give translating his poems my best shot.


Or maybe as I grew up I became less afraid of writing things that would have sounded intolerably silly to me the teenager?
That’s an interesting transition in a few years isn’t it? From embarrassed to “all in” about some things. :) Probably the subject is different for each of us, though.
 
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Llyralen

Senior Member
Anything else? I would love to hear more. In other current threads the idea that giving critique helps writers improve their craft was discussed.

I think finishing and editing my first story helped me improve. I feel a real change in mindset, a bit better idea of what others want and I’m also much more open to feedback. I’m sure there will be more improvements the more stories I complete— I hope so!

I’d still love to hear more ideas and experiences from people.
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
When did I know I had improved? When management at work starting asking me to edit their documents.

How did I do it? Well...my first credential was an applied diploma, so not much focus on writing. Then as a mature student, I completed two university degrees. My husband, a former English professor, was kind enough over the years, to edit my papers. In the beginning, it was rough. Poor guy! Then, by the time he edited my thesis, there were hardly any suggestions at all. I guess I was pretty lucky to have a free editor all those years. But having someone dispassionately correct your work is a great way to learn and improve. It's wonderful that people take the time to share and critique each other's work here on WF. I have seen some excellent advice.

Now, I'm writing fiction, so that opens a whole new can of worms. Because it goes beyond SPAG and clarity. With my first novel complete and almost no feedback, I guess I'm still at ground zero. I'm looking forward to the suggestions I get from beta readers in the coming weeks. Then, perhaps I can share something more about improvement. I'm also curious because, during the period of writing it, I learned a few things, (much of it from folks here on WF), and I may have improved. It will be interesting to see if people note it being stronger writing near the end.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
When did I know I had improved? When management at work starting asking me to edit their documents.

How did I do it? Well...my first credential was an applied diploma, so not much focus on writing. Then as a mature student, I completed two university degrees. My husband, a former English professor, was kind enough over the years, to edit my papers. In the beginning, it was rough. Poor guy! Then, by the time he edited my thesis, there were hardly any suggestions at all. I guess I was pretty lucky to have a free editor all those years. But having someone dispassionately correct your work is a great way to learn and improve. It's wonderful that people take the time to share and critique each other's work here on WF. I have seen some excellent advice.

Now, I'm writing fiction, so that opens a whole new can of worms. Because it goes beyond SPAG and clarity. With my first novel complete and almost no feedback, I guess I'm still at ground zero. I'm looking forward to the suggestions I get from beta readers in the coming weeks. Then, perhaps I can share something more about improvement. I'm also curious because, during the period of writing it, I learned a few things, (much of it from folks here on WF), and I may have improved. It will be interesting to see if people note it being stronger writing near the end.
Taylor, did you finish?! If you did or if it’s not quite yet, when you do, tell us on your “Final Chapter” thread. I would love to hear about it! If done, Congratz!!!!
 

KeganThompson

Senior Member
When did I know my writing improved? When I was told lol I mean, I noticed my sentences were cleaner, I used fewer filter words but unless I'm told I don't see major differences right away.
How did I do it? Well, I constantly put my work out there to be judged. I think about what others say, take notes and do my best to apply it to edits which naturally starts carrying over to other 'projects.'
I've gotten back into reading as well and trying to look at the things I read more critically to have a better understanding of what makes something work or not.
I look at my work now and think it's not that great so... it's a constant reminder of how much more I need to improve, but on the other hand, I have come a long way too.
 

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
My writing refuses to let me know if it's improving. My writing clearly wants me to think I'm the worst writer around. I guess I stay on my toes with that attitude and as a result I'm ever struggling to improve or polish whatever I might try to write. I'm an insecure perfectionist and that means while I know I'll never actually achieve perfection, many things don't get finished because in my mind they're never good enough. Even with all my published work, I'd still like to revise or edit or polish it one more time.

Right now I'm in a down and dark mood over my present writing performance. I've been working for days and days and days now to bring to an end the nonfiction book I'm trying to polish up and send to the waiting editor. The topic is flash fiction/ literature.

I've studied the topic extensively (and exhaustively) and have twenty years of research and online teaching under my belt. I've also written and published many essays on the topic. I know what I'm trying to write about. But while I'm busy editing and polishing the book, I also keep finding new and outstanding material I want to add. (My research archives are monster-sized-- I really should stop exploring it and use just the information I have.) And every time I look at the work I've done on my book so far, I keep finding things that I want to change and that can be improved.

Anyone else have problems with calling an important writing project finished?
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
My writing refuses to let me know if it's improving.

I also keep finding new and outstanding material I want to add. (My research archives are monster-sized-- I really should stop exploring it and use just the information I have.) And every time I look at the work I've done on my book so far, I keep finding things that I want to change and that can be improved.

Anyone else have problems with calling an important writing project finished?
Is it the research aspect? I have less experience with finishing books, but probably one of the reasons why is because I was researching the Viking age for 12 years... and I really couldn't write the book because of it. The research was wonderful but so much was paralyzing when it came to packaging it into my own story. There is always another piece of research to reach for. Research is almost addictive. I did need space from it to get perspective on my story.
God speed on this one, Pamelyn. I'm sure it will be great! Sounds very interesting!
 

Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
I have always had good mechanical control in my writing...but it was not until I understood the underlying philosophies of character development that my writing finally improved. Up until that point I was essentially writing reports.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
I have always had good mechanical control in my writing...but it was not until I understood the underlying philosophies of character development that my writing finally improved. Up until that point I was essentially writing reports.
Where or how did you learn about the philosophies of character development? What was the most helpful?
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
What have you done that you know improved your writing? I would like to have many improvement experiences!
Going through the editing process with both my wife (who edited magazines for years) and professionals I had to pay for, improved my writing tremendously.

When I started my second novel, I realized just how many errors I no longer committed. My entire writing experience became much more streamlined. Instead of allowing myself to be dragged down another side-plot rabbit hole (bloating my writing), I saw new ways of deepening my characterizations without slowing down the story. Finishing my third manuscript, I'm now able to see many more of my own weaknesses that I can self-edit instead of relying solely on others to review and give feedback. Of course this doesn't mean I won't hire an editor, cuz I will be doing that as well, but I'm no longer blind to those errors and poor word choices enabling me to start with a stronger prose than every before.

The best teacher has been experience for me. I now know many more of my own quirks that use to stop me from writing. I still struggle, but not nearly as bad.
 
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Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
Where or how did you learn about the philosophies of character development? What was the most helpful?

It took a few years before I started accepting feedback...and finally came to see that I was writing a great story but my characters were intentionally flat (I was inspired by writing from another era...one before character-driven stories became the norm.) But once I pulled my head outta my arse I started paying more attention to writers who wrote great characters. Grisham was my goto writer for a while because I loved the way that he could talk for two pages about some rando, really illustrate him\her without boring the reader.

I also contrasted that with how Clancy introduced his characters, and kept studying better writers until I figured out the techniques for better characters.

But if you do this...look at CURRENT writers. Trying to emulate classic writers is a bad idea because nobody writes like Steinbeck or Hemingway anymore.
If you wanna sell in the current market, then you have to understand what is selling in the current market.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
It took a few years before I started accepting feedback...and finally came to see that I was writing a great story but my characters were intentionally flat (I was inspired by writing from another era...one before character-driven stories became the norm.) But once I pulled my head outta my arse I started paying more attention to writers who wrote great characters. Grisham was my goto writer for a while because I loved the way that he could talk for two pages about some rando, really illustrate him\her without boring the reader.

I also contrasted that with how Clancy introduced his characters, and kept studying better writers until I figured out the techniques for better characters.

But if you do this...look at CURRENT writers. Trying to emulate classic writers is a bad idea because nobody writes like Steinbeck or Hemingway anymore.
If you wanna sell in the current market, then you have to understand what is selling in the current market.
Dang it! I also came to this same realization this week. But I don’t think I really like too many current authors… Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Guy Gavril Kay, Patricia McKillip and Robyn McKinley being the only living writers who as soon as they write something I read it… and they write kind of like my other classics. I’ll stamp my foot and then go google the authors people tell me write my genre.
 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
When?
I've generally had confidence in my writing. Over the last year comments I've gotten from readers of my Heinlein sequel seem to be validating that confidence. LOL

What helps me improve?
1. Reading great authors ... some of it soaks in
2. Self-study. I'll become interested in some aspect of writing (or stumble across it) and read material (often blogs), sifting through to decide which advice I thought was either best, or most relevant to my own writing
3. I'm a pretty decent editor, so looking at my material with an editor's eye rather than a reader's or author's eye helps me discover technical elements I need to pay attention to
 
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