We get so many questions all the time about what makes good writing or, how can I become a better writer? Well, we put our noggins together and came up with the Four R Process. We’re trying to patent it as we speak, but we decided to give you a glimpse inside our heads for free because we believe in helping others. And since we still view ourselves as writers and not stodgy old publishing professionals we wanted to share this with you. Have a read and if you like it feel free to share it with your other scribe friends.
STEP ONE: READ. If you want to write, you have to be a voracious reader. We’re not talking about only reading the NY Times best sellers or sticking to one genre. Seek out everything you can get your hands on. The classics, the obscure, the cheesy, the great, the bad, the long, the short. If you can find it, you should read it. The more you read the stronger your own writing voice will become and that’s what you should be striving for.
STEP TWO: REWRITE. Never, ever, ever turn in a first draft. Unless you are nineteen and you have a term paper on termites and you don’t care if you pass or fail, you have to rewrite. We don’t care how good you are you must rewrite. We all have those moments where we feel like something is great (and a lot of times when you get that gut feeling you’re right), but you can usually add a few tweaks here and there and your piece will be spectacular. So please, rewrite. You don’t know how many times we’ve read things and just thought, man, if this person just took the time to rewrite this a couple times this would be soooo good.
STEP THREE: REJECT. Reject the notion that you are a terrible, horrible, no good writer. It’s not true. If you have the urge to write and you can’t step away from your laptop or your pen and paper then you can do this. Also, know that feeling like a terrible writer is an absolute normal feeling to have when you write. In fact, it’s a sign that you are actually meant to be a writer. If you didn’t have this feeling, you wouldn’t push yourself to rewrite and make it better and then your work would just sit there. So reject the notion that you’re bad, but embrace the notion that you can do this.
STEP FOUR: REPEAT. Are you with us so far? Good, now it’s time to do it all over.
READ: Once you’ve immersed yourself in all the literature you can find, start to narrow your focus. Do it based on what you want to write. Are you writing a memoir? Go find one hundred of the most varied memoirs you can find and read them all. Working on a YA novel? Do the exact same thing. But don’t read to freak yourself out and compare yourself to every other writer, read because you need to know. You need to know how the genre works, what sells, what doesn’t, what you hate, what you like, everything. Use it as a learning tool. Oh, and if you’re planning on submitting your work to a literary mag or an online journal or even our site, you should really read what’s already being published. Get a sense of what the editors are looking for. Not every site or mag is right for what you’ve written and that’s okay, you will find your niche.
REWRITE: Okay, so we’ve got you away from that first draft, now guess what? Go write about twenty more. Then, once you’ve done that, ask a friend or a peer or an instructor or join a writing group or take a class and let those people read your work and give you feedback. Don’t take it as criticism. Simply see it as a way to help you keep writing. Often times we get too close to our own work and the best thing to do is step away and let someone else have a read. You’ll be surprised at what others will see in your writing that you never saw. And don’t be surprised if they see something fantastic in it that you had never noticed either. Feedback is your friend.
REJECT: Be willing to reject pieces of your own work. We have a writer friend who always says, ‘kill all your darlings.’ Even if you love, love, love that one sentence or that word or that piece of dialogue, if it’s not working to further your story, delete it. Don’t be afraid to start over. Also, now that you’ve opened yourself up to feedback from others, don’t be afraid to reject their notions either, but don’t reject them just to save face or prove a point. Sometimes the best criticism we ever got hurt the most, but in the long run helped our stories become far better than they ever would have had we not been open to the feedback.
REPEAT: Yes, you have to do it again.
READ: So now you’re nearing the end of your latest masterpiece. Guess what? You get to now read your own work. But we don’t want you to just read it to yourself. We want you to read it aloud. This is one of the tricks we use to make sure that our writing has a strong voice. You want your writing to stand out? Then it better have a voice and a style that’s all your own. When you read it, do you get excited? Do you hear differences in tone and reflection? Here’s a test. Try reading a user’s manual out loud. Then go read a piece of your own writing. Then read a piece of your favorite author’s writing out loud and see the differences. Which one do you like more? We hope it’s yours, if not, keep rewriting.
REWRITE: Yes, you have to keep rewriting. When we’re working on a piece, whether it’s a short story or a novel or a screenplay we keep rewriting until there are fewer and fewer mistakes and awkward sentences. Then we read it out loud and rewrite some more. At some point you have to stop, but we only recommend this when you have fully exhausted all your options. If you’ve still got a nagging feeling that the thing your main character did on page 36 is still not flowing smoothly then you need to go back and rewrite it. Don’t give up. It will show and others will see it. Keep rewriting.
REJECT: Now that you’ve gotten through all of this it’s time to go out and send your work into the world. Why? So you can get rejected. Look, we don’t say that because we think you suck or we want to be malicious. We say it because any writer who’s ever become successful has been rejected. It happens to all of us. The first few were hard to take, but now we’re cool with it. In fact, we like to wear our rejections like a badge of honor. If writing were easy, everyone would do it. Writing is not easy, but if you wake up in the morning and can’t imagine yourself doing anything else but writing then you were born to be a writer and rejection is just par for the course. So go out and get rejected. And when you do, don’t worry about it. Just come back to these steps and keep at it. Because you can always do what?