Becoming a Master Writer in 10,000 Easy Steps

Talent is produced in the inglorious increments of constancy.

A writer’s work is never done.

Most writers need to write several hundred thousand throwaway words before they begin to produce their best work.

Now, if you’re just starting to write, don’t despair that you’ll have to wait 20 years to achieve mastery, or even 10 if you speed things up and write for three hours a day. You’ve already done a lot of writing and reading, not to mention imaginative daydreaming and storytelling with friends and family, so those hours count.

The hard stuff, the stuff you’d rather skip or do later, is often the stuff that’s most necessary.

But the mantra of practice, practice, practice, will only take you so far. The mythical 10,000 hours of practice isn’t just a matter of banging away on your keyboard for 10,000 hours. To get better at anything, the number of hours you put in is just one component. The other component is how you practice — the quality of your practice.

Practice being comfortable in discomfort.

So practice being comfortable in discomfort. Practice writing for an extra 10 minutes when you think you’re spent, just to build stamina. Read interviews with authors or craft books to evaluate your own stories and investigate new ways of writing. Take a writing workshop, just to see if there’s a consistent pattern of weaknesses that others see in your stories. Study novels and other works of art and apply new techniques to your own works.

Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month, co-founder of 100 Word Story, writer, tap dancer, alchemist, contortionist, numbskull, preacher.

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