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How to Improve Writing Skills

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by M.R.Vavala (subscribe)
I'm a current PWE student, living in Melbourne, that loves writing poetry, short stories, children's stories and anything else that will entertain. Visit my blog at
Published August 8th 2012
Cartwheel through the park to get your writing going
So, I'm finding things a little difficult at the moment. Between school work and home life things are getting hectic. I've always put my family before my writing, but, with deadlines and such closing in, I've been hibernating and trying to dedicate some quality time to writing.

Words, words, words

The results—a blank canvas. The ideas are there, but, the writing is seemingly stagnant, limited and just not what I envisaged it to be. Every writer goes through these periods—don't despair. Did Gabriel Garcia Marquez not live in a smoke-hazed churning pages of nothing before he wrote One hundred years of Solitude?

How long can I leave it before it works itself out...

I'm not a planner—in fact, speak to my husband and he'll cringe when he watches me work. Normally, it does work, but, as I've already mentioned it's just not a happening thing at the moment.
What to do?

Well, read, read and read some more and when you're done reading write, write and write some more. Don't think, first thoughts are generally your best thoughts, at least you're getting something on paper, you can always go back and edit later. The main thing is that you are getting your creativity flowing, soon the ideas will come and before you know it, you'll have your purpose and story direction back on track.

Without stating the obvious, I've been reading. I've gone back to the references I've studied and have used them to improve those scenes where my story was mundane and without tension and rediscovering the things that I had not forgotten, but had not used for a while.

Every emerging writer has things they can use some help with; whether it be creating three dimensional, believable characters, or adding back story without making it seem like an info dump to flashbacks, to developing a plausible plot—I'll be the first to admit that I can use some help every now and then with these various aspects of my writing.

These resources are not only well read, well used and well referred to; they are the books that I could not live without. Nowadays, all you need to do is surf the net to find thousands of references that will help with your writing. But, these are always with me when I'm writing.

The Modern Library, Writer's Workshop by Stephen Koch. We all want to create works that rival Vladimir Nabokov's, but, understand that may not happen right away. Learning from the masters and reading snippets of advice or inspiring comments can be not only inspirational but that one thing that sets our writing flow into motion.

The Writer's Journey, Mythic Structure for Writer's, Christopher Vogel. This book focuses on the relationship between mythology and story telling. It includes the 'hero's journey', gospel for any quest story.

Imaginative Writing, The Elements of Craft, Janet Burroway. If there is one book you are going to invest in, let this be the one.
It goes over voice, setting, conflict, point of view to mention only a few, then gives you excerpts of short stories, poems, non-fiction pieces that help you break down and analyse the way in which they have been written. By the end, you are given a creative writing exercise that helps you put into practice what you have just learned.

My refernces

Writing Fiction, Garry Disher, another bible for an emerging writer. This also goes over the important aspects of creative writing with other obvious pointers to get you started. Its first chapter, my favourite and one that I read all the time, especially when I question my own writing abilities—Before you start, do you really want to write, Under-confidence, Over-confidence?

When all else fails, surround yourself with other emerging writers and talk about what you are facing at the moment. Discuss your fears, your ideas, or just chat about mundane everyday things. Go for walks, cartwheel through the park, drink copious amounts of lattes, watch people. I guarantee you, inspiration will come and your writing will spew forth in an avalanche of perfect prose...well, maybe not before the first edit.

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