When I began my career as a writer, I struggled to find my voice. Whenever I tried to write, I would inevitably drift into the style of another author. Sure, I’d heard that “good artists borrow; great artists steal,” but I felt like a fraud. Little did I know, I wasn’t alone.
For a long time, I thought real writers were born with innate talent, some style that was just waiting to get onto the page. Turns out, that’s not true.
We find our voices by mimicking the voices of others. Great writers do not try to be original. They copy the work of the masters.
Over the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to travel home for the holidays. During this time, I was inundated with advice from older friends and family about life, money, and relationships. But the best advice I received came from the an unexpected source: my seven-year-old cousin.
There are several ways to reveal who your character is in a story: through how they dress, their posture, and through what they value. But the best way to determine who your character is is through their action.
Not sure what your character might do? Put them through the Starbucks Character Test.
Sometimes writing can feel like a race. We rush to finish the next manuscript or the next novel or the next short story. We try to be factories that churn out narratives that will sell. We jump from one project to the next because we’ve been told consumers demand a constant flow of new things to devour.
This race can be exhausting and discouraging. In the midst of it, we can lose sight of the fact that writing, like any art, is a craft that needs to be practiced to be perfected. There is value in slowing down, taking a break from larger works, and practicing small things.
A little over ten years ago, I had almost a decade of English teaching experience, a couple years paid freelance writing work, several creative writing university courses under my belt, and a few small publications in poetry and nonfiction. A friend’s mom, Mae, had written a query letter for her second novel. She asked me to read it and give her some writing feedback. What could go wrong?
When Mae asked, I had not attempted to write an entire novel or a query letter. I had read thousands of novels and a few letters, but I had not studied the structure and requirements of each. I assumed writing was writing. Surely with a degree in English and a little experience, I was qualified to give good feedback?
Nope. Not even close.
I lost my own writing contest. Again.
Let me explain: A few months ago, I created a fake identity and entered a writing contest hosted by The Write Practice. In other words, it was my writing contest.
I wasn’t involved with the judging—although I’ve judged over 15 contests—but I personally hired the head judge and knew most of the associate judges. And even though the judges had no knowledge that I was participating, you would think that it would have given me a leg up in the writing contest, right? I knew what the judges were looking for, after all.
I didn’t win though. I didn’t even make the shortlist. And last month, when I submitted my story for the Spring Writing Contest, I didn’t win it either.
Daydreaming is one of your greatest writing tools. Mind you, some people call it visualization. Others call it imagination. I call it story-prep, and here and now, I am officially giving you permission to daydream.
Not convinced yet? Here are three reasons why daydreaming might just be one of the best things you do for your writing today.
In March, we hosted the Spring Writing Contest in partnership with Short Fiction Break literary magazine. Entering this contest was a huge accomplishment for all our writers, and we want to celebrate the winners here on The Write Practice.
We received over 300 entries to this contest from so many talented writers. The judges thoroughly enjoyed reading all your stories, and with such an amazing selection, you made their job of choosing just a handful of winners very difficult.
You should be proud. We’re very proud of you.
We’re heading into summer, and with the longer days, warm sun, and vacations to look forward to, we’re feeling inspired to write. What better way to enjoy summer than with a writing contest?
That’s right: our Summer Writing Contest is now open! This time, we’re doing something new, and I can’t wait to share with you what makes this contest special.
We hear voices in our heads in the middle of the night. We see scenes in our minds like movies and are compelled to capture them on the page. We look around at the world and notice things, things other people might not see. Writing procrastination—well, that’s just not in our vocabulary.
We are lovers of stories. We gasp at expertly crafted sentences. We smile at innovative turns of phrase. We’re left breathless at the fierce beauty of a story well told.
We are writers. And writers write, right?