Practice, practice, practice – how do you practice?

I’ve coached my daughter’s soccer team for the past four years.

No more.

This week she’s trying out for the middle school team. The teams will be based on skill. For years it’s been all about equal play and having fun.

No more.

For years kids are told in youth sports that it’s not about winning. (Yeah, right.) Then they get older and it’s all about winning and playing time. Some players advance with natural skill and some by hard work.

I encouraged my daughter to run over the summer. To get in shape. Before it really counts.

And she’s glad she did. (That’s what happens when you have a coach for a mom.)

So, between novels or while writing a first draft or while revising – what do you do to practice writing? Do you know your weaknesses?

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I break down novels for structure. And I’ve learned a lot. I mean a lot. More than I could put in a blog post. All my Plot Busters posts? Well, sorry, they weren’t about me trying to share my expertise. That was me processing what I was learning.

Here are some ways to grow:

  • Reading (a lot)
  • Free writing in a journal

Help me fill out the list. What do you do to grow as a writer and bring new skills to each manuscript?

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34 Responses to Practice, practice, practice – how do you practice?

  1. Jessica Bell August 24, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    Write poetry! :o)

  2. Sarah August 24, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I read, but I also write a lot for my job. Even though it’s not creative writing, language precision is essential, and I certainly get practice with that at work. I’ve also found beta-reading highly educational!

  3. Kris August 24, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    Critique. A lot. You learn a ton when you crit others work. It easier to see things you miss in your own.

    Also, if you can afford it, go to conferences and/or workshops. Network opportunities and mini-classes on craft. Win-win.

    Just my $.02!!

    • Laura August 24, 2011 at 11:33 am #

      I agree with all those! It seems every aspect of our journey helps us grow as writers. 🙂

  4. christine danek August 24, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    I do read a lot. Critique and should free write more. I also look at what I’m struggling with and try to focus writing something that is free of my weakness.

  5. Heather Kelly August 24, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Collaboration and writing (and reading) outside of genre. Not being afraid to try something new. And what Kris said. I’ve learned more from critting others than doing anything else.

  6. Joyce August 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Revise, revise, revise. And listen to what my critiquers and beta readers remark on, even when I can’t stand or don’t want to believe they have a point. Then, I revise again.

  7. anne gallagher August 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Take and everyday experience and turn it on its head. Going to the dentist, the dentist is a serial killer. stuff like that.

  8. Creepy Query Girl August 24, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Reading and critiquing is practice time for me. I also count blogging because it uses creativity and trying to use the fewest words to get the day’s article across.

  9. Adventures in Children's Publishing August 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    I coached my son’s soccer team for three years, and I keep going back to that experience, because I learned so much from it. Good for you for doing it! It isn’t always easy, is it? But so rewarding!

    Growing as a writer happens as you write. A lot. I also find that I get insight into my work as I read craft books. Also, I’m always inspired by books outside my preferred genre. I also read, reread, and rereread great books so that I can see the work behind the magic.

    Thanks for a great post!


  10. Carole Anne Carr August 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    As you say, by reading children’s books written by others and constantly writing my own. :0)

  11. Melissa Hurst August 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    I agree with you about reading a lot. I’ve learned so much by paying attention to what other authors include in their books. Also, critiquing has taught me a lot about writing. Now to take that knowledge and apply it to my own book:)

  12. Ava Jae August 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    I read of course, though part of that is more than fiction–I read books about improving your craft. Right now I’m reading The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass and I love it. It has some really fantastic advice and exercises.

    Critique partners are also an enormous help. I know I’ve learned in leaps and bounds from beta reads and critique feedback. It is SO invaluable.

  13. Laura Marcella August 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    Reading, journaling, and writing prompts. It helps get me out of my comfort zone and practice new ideas and ways of writing.

  14. shelley moore thomas August 24, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    I do lots of short timed writings. It is amazing what great ideas can come from little ten minute scribblings.

  15. Anna Staniszewski August 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    I read a lot of craft books and try to apply the advice to my own writing. I think it keeps me from getting too stuck in my ways and often brings some much-needed inspiration.

  16. Lisa Green August 24, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Writing and reading are definitely the big ones! There are also conferences, workshops, blogs, and critique groups.

  17. Donna K. Weaver August 24, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Like you, I read a lot. Not just in the genres I write but books and blogs and articles about writing.

  18. Jenny Lundquist August 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    I read a lot, but I also take writing courses. I read books on writing as well, but sometimes I catch myself getting pretty lazy and saying, That’s a great suggestion, then I flip the page and forget about it. Writing courses help me actually practice.

  19. Susan Sipal August 24, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    My blog! Studying JK Rowling’s techniques, then having to analyze it in depth and write it in the fewest amount of words (really! I do try!!) so that others can understand, several times a week. That’s my biggest writing exercise!

    And I find Twitter is a wonderful tool as well. You quickly learn where to cut your flab in word choice when limited to 140 characters! 🙂

  20. Susan R. Mills August 24, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    I read. I write. I study. I learn from other blogs. I learn from books on the craft. As for the middle school tryouts…best of luck to your daughter!

  21. Kelly Polark August 24, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    Writing exercises. Sometimes I write new kinds of poems to stretch myself, or my writing group does actual exercises from a writing book to strengthen our writing.
    I do learn a lot from blogs too!

  22. Susan Kaye Quinn August 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    It helps me to keep of list of what I already know (use the 11 senses, keep a list of my crutch words, remember to use body language). It helps to know that I know it, but that I don’t always have to remember every thing every step of the way. Lately my list is getting more general (always go the extra mile, don’t hold yourself back, what’s the worst that could happen here), but the idea is the same.

    (p.s. I also process with my blog! :))

  23. becca puglisi August 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    I have to second the critiquing advice. I’ve learned more from critiquing other writers than I have from pretty much anything else. Reading books on craft and applying their techniques. Examining existing books for good technique. This is the hardest for me to do, because the kind of books I want to examine are good ones, and the writing sucks me in so I don’t want to keep stopping and being analytical. But when I’m able to do it, the payoff is huge.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  24. Eileen Astels August 24, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    Read, read, read, work through self-help books, and write, write, write!!

  25. Anita Miller August 24, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    I’ve been trying to write my newspaper column better…I got a new editor and that helps because she is kick-butt and throws my passive voice oooouuuutttt the window. Also writing 400 word column/wk helps me work on my speed. I try to punch those puppies out…great practice for the art of FOCUS.

    Thanks for this post!

  26. Sherrie Petersen August 24, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    I’ve always read a lot, this summer more than usual (sleepless nights were made for iPad reading!) but the other thing that has helped me practice is beta reading. Picking apart someone else’s story and being able to articulate to them what’s missing, how it could be stronger, has helped me to find (and correct) those weaknesses in my own writing.

  27. Karen Strong August 25, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    I also do a lot of reading. And I love to observe as well — people watch and eavesdrop. I get a lot of story ideas by being nosy. 🙂

  28. Leigh Moore August 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    great question! I think writing is the biggest thing for me, but actively reading as well. If something really stands out to me, I try to break it down (like you!) and see how they did it. I probably should start writing these down now that I’ve got Old Lady Brain and tend to forget things…

    (what was that cool trick again? ;o)

  29. Stacy August 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Late as usual! I practice by free writing in a journal and reading. I also do practice scenes for the book I’m working on. If something comes up in my mind that sounds like it might work, I usually sit down and work it out. I may not end up using it, but it’s still worth the time.

  30. Marcia August 25, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    Reading both craft books and published novels to get wider ideas on how stories can be told. Brainstorming the type of structure, chronology and so forth that might fit my new idea before just jumping in.

  31. Laura Josephsen August 25, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    Editing other people’s stories. I don’t do it a lot, because it takes a lot of time, but I do some editing for my friends. It helps my writing in a huge way, because at times I’ll have to pause to look up a particular grammar rule. (I’ll sometimes know that something is wrong, but won’t know how to explain WHY, so I have to research that.) And reading other people’s work and looking through it with a critical eye for them can call to attention things in my own writing.

    It’s different for me than just reading a book. When I read, I want to shut down the editor side of me (and for soooo long, it was so hard to do), because I just want to clear my head and enjoy the story. When I’m reading AND editing, I’m having to look at it in an entirely different light.

  32. Leslie Rose August 28, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    I read like crazy to practice. It’s so cool to see how other authors spin their stories. I also analyze why I’m totally in the grips of some books, and others just entertain me. I’m always on the look out for engaging use of language.

  33. Ghenet Myrthil August 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    I read a lot and have analyzed some of the books that are in the genre of my WIP. I should try more free-writing.

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