1. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    What skills does regular practice improve?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mickaneso, Jul 13, 2012.

    I'm relatively new to writing. I'm curious as to what skills you're actually improving when you practice writing. Especially when you lack a writing group or someone to point out what you're doing wrong and what you can improve. I worry that even with a little practice every day I still won't improve. I worry that a year down the line I'll still be making the same fundamental mistakes that I'm making now. I'm still in High school mode were I need my English teacher to point at everything I'm doing wrong and tell me what exactly my problem is and how I can improve it.

    So it's a little discouraging knowing I don't have something like that now. I wrote 300 words last night (trying to do a minimum of 300 words just to get myself in the habbit of writing everday) but I just don't see how the next 300 words or the 300 words in a months time will be any improvement. Am I developing skills without my weaknesses being pointed out?
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Self-editing is one of the most important skills a writer needs to develop. But it is definitely hard to learn when you're making 'mistakes' if you don't have some kind of guide. Besides a basic book on grammar, I would suggest starting with Allen Guthrie's Infamous Writing Tips, then look for writing tips by authors (not necessarily teachers). Also start reading/participating in crit groups online, such as on this forum. Nothing teaches you about writing like critiquing what others have done, and seeing what others say about it. Then take those things and look at what you've written. It takes time, but eventually you'll start editing some things automatically, and you'll know when to question others.
     
  3. cuddles
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    cuddles New Member

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    I have a copy of The St. Martin's Handbook from my writing classes in college for basic grammar structure and double checking myself. Still occassionally use it to this day, although I've gotten to the point where I remember more of it from practice.
     
  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I read my work aloud, a lot. Anything sounding weak and awkward , I rework.
    I have several writing books I keep at hand - the Elements of Style and How to write a Sentense - but nothing works as well as your own ear.
    Everyone, no matter how well they write, has a natural editor in them and can tell when something just doesn't sound right.
     
  5. MeganHeld
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    MeganHeld Senior Member

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    I agree, the Elements of Style is a good book. I get emails from http://www.dailywritingtips.com/ which send me information that I didn't know and sometimes they offer quizzes. peachalulu is right, your ear is the best guide. Read your work aloud. If there is a mistake you will hear it. Also a good way to insert punctuation.
     
  6. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    Thank you for the books everyone. I'll definitely invest in any that are on Amazon. I heard the writing by ear tip before and it definitely is the most helpful writing advice I've had.
     
  7. BBBurke
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    BBBurke Member

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    Make sure when you 'practice' writing, you practice something specific. Just writing over and over doesn't necessarily teach you anything. Try writing 300 words of dialogue. Or 300 words of just narrative description. Try writing in different POV. Make it an actual exercise and then read the results out loud and see how it sounds. And then maybe try the exercise again to see if you can change/improve.

    And there are lots of places where you can post your work and get some feedback. like the Writing Workshop here. But it also helps to find a group of like minded folks who you can work with regularly, that way they can see your progression.
     
  8. SaybleNox
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    SaybleNox Member

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    Read. Read alot. Slowly but surely you will start learn and pick up on grammer without even noticing it. That,a nd every time you feel inspired to write, no matter what it is. Do.
     
  9. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rather than recommending websites, I would suggest an in-person, face-to-face writers' group in your area. Some meet weekly, some meet monthly; some are focused on productive writing while others tend to be as much about the socialization as the actual writing. Some groups will spend time on a number of different members' projects at each meeting and others focus on one writer's work each week/month.

    It is up to you to find the collective conscious that best suits your needs.

    Don't know of any guilds/groups near where you live? Not to worry. Check with the local library (Yeh. They still have those!) and see if they know of any groups in your area. Check on local social networks online to see if there are any sites for local writers. That usually leads to their physical group. Check small bookstores in your area, they may know of groups. Still no luck? Not to worry. Consider starting a group yourself.

    Post notices in all of those same places you were looking for a group yourself. When you find a small group of people interested in joining together for the common goal, decide just what you want your group to focus on. How often do you want to meet? Do you wish to establish a set place for meetings, like a library or restaurant (where you can meet and eat at the same time!), or would you prefer to have a "moveable feast" and meet at a different members home or location of choice each time.

    Lastly, the remarkable thing about being in a group, or even an online group such as this, you can learn as much - or more - by critiquing other people's work than you can by having them crit yours! We tend to be more removed and less emotionally involved in others' works and it is easier to stand back from it and judge it objectively. Then, you start to see those same issues in some of your own writing and the little light bulbs just start going off!

    Good luck.
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You only know what works and what doesn't when you do it yourself. It's like learning anything else - sure, you can read books, teachers can teach, friends can give you tips, you can have perfect understanding of the subject and STILL be unable to actually apply it, because the theoretical and the practical are actually two very different kettle of fish.

    Theoretical knowledge is helpful because it highlights things, gives you pointers and makes the learning process faster as a whole. But none of this can substitute the act of actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) - when you actually write, you experience the knowledge you have first hand, you see now why it works or why it doesn't, you see which parts work personally for you even if all the tips advise against it and which don't etc. All that knowledge in your head comes to life - it morphs, swells, breathes, you find a heartbeat in the very flow of your sentences and you see for the first time that writing is truly beautiful, and exciting, and breath-taking.

    And as you write more and more, you'll get a better and better sense of what works and what doesn't. People say "Don't repeat" but sometimes repetitions are good and adds rhythm. People say "Show, don't tell" but there're times when telling is better than showing. People say there's a difference between infodump and exposition - where's the line? People say, "Dialogue should be natural and not natural at the same time." What the heck? You can't know these fine differences without getting your hands dirty.

    Think of it this way - my husband fixes computers, software and hardware, but sometimes he comes across something he doesn't know so he researches on the internet, gets the tips, sometimes even follow a youtube video on how to dismantle a particular make of laptop. Does watching this video - without actually getting out the screw drivers and taking the case apart - mean he can dismantle it and fix it? No, of course not. Does reading all those tips mean he can fix laptops? No. How does he know? He has to get that screw driver out and start the painstaking work of disconnecting motherboards, based on all those tips and videos, and go through the trial and error of connecting the wrong things or not putting it back together properly. Nothing can replace the hands-on knowledge.

    Not everyone who is a writer, artist, or even computer technician or mechanic have had the proper/formal education in the field and yet they're wonderful at their jobs. On the other hand, not everyone who has had the formal education can actually get the job done. So tell me, which is more important?
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Practice is only effective when it reinforces good writing habits. You have to constantly examine what you are doing and correct the mistakes, or you will reinforce those as well.
     
  12. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    You can join a writing group and receive more feedback there. Some of those websites are anoymous, where the reviewers don't know who wrote what, so that those reviewers cannot judge your story based on who you are instead of judging based on what the story is about.

    I hope I'm making sense.

    That's what I do, is join a writing group. I know most of these writing group websites cost, but you can find a few that are free, like this website, where you can post your writing in the review section to receive more feedback than just being your own reviewer.
     
  13. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    Thank you everyone for the tips. I know it sounds a little stupid but it has never even crossed my mind to buy books that can help with writing. I've been reading fiction so much to try and improve my understanding when there are more direct approaches available. When I've been writing it feels like I'm in the middle of an ocean and I don't know which way to swim to find land, but in truth I probably need swimming lessons first. Need a lot more research on the craft itself. Again thank you.
     
  14. Jamie Senopole
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    Jamie Senopole Member

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    This is what works best for me too! :)
     

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