Writing is an interesting art. There are strict rules of grammar and form as well as undefined potential for artistic expression. Many people use it as an outlet to express themselves. This is a solid exercise for mental health but how do we know if our writing is worth reading? Putting aside writing for oneself, lets focus on those writers who want to be read. Here are my two invaluable tips for writers.
First tip: read. When I started writing for an audience, I researched a lot of what Stephen King had to say on the subject. He stated every good writer should, “Read, read, read.” This couldn’t be truer. The times I am most proud of my work are when I’m in the thick of a good novel. It stretches my prose, challenges my plots, and gives me broader perspective. I honestly believe that my writing has improved as my library has grown. It is why I studied English. The best way to understand how a piece of literature connects with people is by studying the ones that have stood the test of time.
Additionally, I can’t hope to be supported in the artform if I’m not supporting it. I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve met that say they don’t read. It astounds me. My first response is, “Why should I read your work if you aren’t willing to read others?” I find myself in a season with the time to write as much as I’d like. I’ve been spending it on my shelf of unread books. It’s not that I don’t have plenty to write, I do. Writing The Husband was the hardest thing I’ve had to do and reconnecting myself with the artform has helped me recharge and to see old manuscripts with new eyes. It’s easy to get comfortable and forget there is a broader writing world.
Second tip: find people who will be honest about your work. This is key. The writing classes I took in college were an exercise to inflate egos. No one wanted to be critical for fear of being criticized. How does that sharpen talent? It does not. I grew up in a household that was self-aware in its understanding of the arts. My father instilled in us the idea that criticism is parameter for growth. To slink away from it, or not chase it head on, means we don’t want to be better than we are.
My best advice for this is pay someone. I invested a lot of heart into The Husband and paid Columbus Publishing Lab for its first run of developmental editing . This is where an editor told me what worked and didn’t. I heeded their advice and produced a book that was valuable for a publisher. That publisher had their own edits, but they had a much better product to work with. I submitted to both and the final product was an exceptional book. It was better than I could have imagined. No, there’s not a need to pay someone but it helps. Our friends are usually too close to be harshly honest. They also don’t know the business as well.
Share this information with the writers in your life. It has been invaluable to me. Reading showed me the bar I needed to reach, and a good developmental editor gave me the direction to achieve it. I wouldn’t be a writer without falling in love with reading nor would I be a good one without accepting criticism.
Aaron Daniel Behr
Mount Vernon, Ohio