It doesn't matter how good you think you are, you can't become great unless you put forth the effort. Some people think that all they need is talent to become a success. However, the old saying rings true more now than ever- "Practice Makes Perfect."
But where can you go to hone your skills as a writer? Sure there are tons of blogs out there that will give you little nuggets of information, but the only way you are ever going to be great is if you read.
Tip #1 READ
Believe it or not, it is true. In order to know how to improve your writing, you have to read. A LOT. Not just books in your genre, but books from all categories, sub-categories. Go to your library and just start pulling books off the shelf and read
Or if you are into screenplays, look online to find some of the free sites that let you download the scripts and read as many as you can. In film school, they tell you to do this anyways. And if you want to be great, you shouldn't skimp on how many you read per week or even per night.
Reading is the only sure-fire way to learn how to write. You will learn pacing, syntax, vocabulary, and style. By reading other people's works you will find a voice you like and be able to mimic that voice. Then when you get good, you will be able to twist it and manipulate it until it is entirely yours.
Tip #2 The Good and the Bad
Now when you begin to read you will start to see what books pull you in and which ones leave you high and dry. The best thing you can do is make a note of which books you love and steer clear of them. Yeah, you heard me. You can't keep reading the great books, you have to dive into the nasty, poorly written ones if you are going to learn.
Reading horrific books will help you learn quickly what not to do with your writing. Reading great material won't show you what not to do. The truth is, bad books are the only thing that can make you a great writer.
When you can begin to spot and pinpoint what went wrong in a book, you will begin to realize your faults as well. Poorly written books are the best tools you can learn from. It will suck to read them, but you will clearly see what makes them bad. Then you can go back to your writing and see if you are making the same mistakes.
Now, if you are writing a screenplay, don't go for the final draft of the screenplay. Look for the first or spec draft. When you read them you will learn how some things get twisted in the final. You will pick up on the pacing easier too. The best screenplay to see this with is "Alien." The first draft is good. There is a lot going on and the characters are developed, but when you read the final draft, or "shooting script" you will see what made the first draft okay and the final great.
Tip #3 The Company that You Keep
Don't trust anyone you are close to, to give you an honest review. No matter how much they want to read what you have written, they aren't going to be able to help you polish your novel.
Sure, their kind words will give you an ego boost, but that boost could be your downfall. Give you manuscript or your screenplay to someone who isn't biased. There are plenty of sites online that allow you to upload your work to get honest reviews. Once the reviews start coming in, you can then tweak your work and make it better.
Remember the book isn't complete until it is complete. Don't give up on the editing process and publish it because you're sick of working on it. That is not how successful writers earn the big bucks. You will start to hate your story. Once that happens, you will be able to see it with new eyes and see what is wrong with it.
Tip #4 To Write is to Become Married
When you write a book it is like getting married. The first stage is the happy go lucky stage where you are wearing rose colored glasses. You are gleefully sitting in front of your computer for hours on end thinking nothing but happy thoughts until you write "The End."
But once those two little words are edged on the white canvass of your manuscript, the honeymoon is over and you have to work.
There is a reason why writers say, "editing is a bitch." They have lost their love for their characters and story. They have come to the end of it all and are left with a void. The creative juices have subsided and all that is left is a 200+ page manuscript that may or may not be what they thought it was when the first got into it.
Then, just like marriage, you have to polish and refine your love. You have to pull it down from the pedestal you raised it up on and work with it. Just like a spouse there will be changing that has to happen. There will be compromises and struggles to get the words out just right. After all, you are now arguing with your love and on the verge of getting divorced.
When you get to the point where you just want to call it quits and never look back, you can look at it like sitting in a marriage counselor's office wondering what went wrong with the relationship. You have to dig deep to uncover the truth about your manuscript. You have to learn what made you fall in love with it in the first place.
Many writers will find themselves in this stage and call it quits. They will be so completely done with the whole process that they think the only thing left to do is send it out for publication and be rid of it once and for all. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking will land you in the list of Tip #2 and your book will be rated as a guide on what not to do.
If you are one of the patient ones that can hold off and listen to what is going on with your manuscript, a whole new world will open up for you. And you will reach the point of greatness.
After all, you don't want your manuscript or screenplay to be a hot flash of success like you read in the tabloids where some hot celebrity couple got married only to divorce three weeks later. No, you want your manuscript or screenplay to stand the test of time and be hailed as a remarkable accomplishment. You want your manuscript to be on the cover of some magazine as the old couple who has been married for over 75 years.
But you can't get to that point without going through all the steps and learn from your mistakes.