On “Good” Writing:
This isn’t about popular writing. Popular writing is a matter of some skill, but mostly luck and providing a niche that appeals. Lightning strikes, you get lucky. I’ll take a consistent audience over a massive audience any day of the week. If a lot of people overlook your work or they don’t get many likes or no one notices you, don’t worry. It’s not a sign that you’re a bad writer. Over a thousand things could be factoring into this decision that have nothing to do with you. So, keep writing.
Don’t be discouraged by anyone who you perceive to be a better writer than you. When you read something that gives you even just a moment’s enjoyment (regardless of whether or not it stays with you for the rest of your life or you forget about it in the next five minutes), you’re not seeing the hours, weeks, months, and, quite honestly, years of work it took the writer to reach their level of skill.
You like someone? Learn from them. Learn from their style, learn from their words. What they do with their characters, what words they put into a row, where they put their commas and semi-colons, and put some effort into looking at what they’re doing. Look at how they did it, how the pieces came together to give you a story that you enjoy.
Then, apply it to you.
Every fanfic. Every book. Every article. Everything you read is your teacher. You can use it all to make yourself better. What you need to do is not copy, but instead think. In copying, we learn nothing except how to trace the outer shell. Ideas are neat, but so are coherent wholes.
A story is a painting. When you look at it, it seems like a complete image. Except each brushstroke is important, even the ones that it feels like you could do without. A character is many traits together, not just one. A whole personality, if you want to extract a trait from a person then look at the person. The whole person, including the extraneous bits, the ugly bits, and all the parts you don’t like. Those parts are just important to making the image complete. When you understand how pieces come together, it’s easier to separate them out.
Ask yourself why you enjoy what you do. Examine it. Study it. Rip it apart. Look at it from the inside out. If you switched up these pieces, how does it all change? There’s your story.
Patience. Practice. Persistence. Perseverance.
If you want to become better then choose the uncomfortable.
On one hand, there’s something to be said for working with what interests you. On the other, if you forever stay with your preferences then you limit yourself. Try new things or stagnate. Don’t flit from new thing to thing, attempt to master each, but if you find yourself slowing or getting bored then go with what makes you uncomfortable. What are you afraid of? What are you afraid you’re no good at? What have you avoided because you don’t know how to do it? What haven’t you looked at because you think you’re bad at it?
Action? Romance? Drama? Horror? What?
Do that. Learn about it. Borrow a bunch of books from the library. Read up on articles by the experts. Challenge yourself.
Are there characters you avoid because you don’t like them? Write about those characters. Study them. Learn about them. Learn to see things from their perspective. You don’t have to agree with them, but a part of writing is learning to separate yourself out from your characters. The more perspectives you can write from, the more you learn to see beyond your own worldview, and the more you try to stretch, the better you’ll become.
Art is understanding people. If you don’t understand people, you will fall short. Understanding people in all their beautiful flaws and foibles is the journey of a lifetime. You’re not going to be able to do it all in one day, or one year, or fifty. So pick one. You have to start someplace.
The only way to fail is to quit.
So, keep writing.
We struggle and we strive. Writing is a journey, just keep walking. Eventually, you’ll find your sunrise and it’ll be a whole new day.