3 Habits of sophomore writers and how to cultivate them
Writing is a profession and like any other profession, you need to graduate from the school of writing. Randy Ingermanson, a novelist and the inventor of the Snowflake method wrote a great article describing the terms Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior writers an analogy. I started extending his definitions by identifying the habits one needs to develop as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior writer.
Last month, I wrote an article 3 Habits of a freshman writer (and why you should concentrate on only these) where I urged beginning writers to focus on developing just the following three habits:
- daily writing doesn’t matter however small
- daily reading and
- organizing your writing and notes from reading in such a way you can find them when you need them.
While working on developing these habits, a day will come, when you feel that you have wasted the whole day if you had to go to the bed without writing something.
You will have a nagging feeling if you have not filed away the scribbling you did on the back of an envelope when your diary was not handy or notes you took on a piece of paper while reading the amazing book you accidentally found in the library.
When this starts happening frequently, congratulations. You are now in the sophomore year as a writer and ready to develop three habits of sophomores. They are:
- daily editing
- show your work
- introduce yourself as a writer
1. Daily editing
As a sophomore writer, you will have some writing under your belt. Your job now is to take some bits from it and learn to edit it. To make it ready for human consumption.
Self-editing is as important as writing. You will have to learn to do it. If you have this thought in your mind that editing is the job of editors and proof-readers, banish it from your mind. Build a habit of self-editing right from the early stages and you will not struggle when you are writing a book.
Tighten your sentences. Remove unnecessary words. Cut out the waffle. Refer to objects by name. Be specific. Avoid adverbs and use more verbs. Choose an active versus passive voice. Include dialogue. Learn how to describe a scene and a setting.
Though much disliked and feared, editing in fact is one of the most joyful activities of writers. This is where you learn and practice the craft of writing.
And the craft of writing is in making our writing meaningful. As a writer, our job is to observe, decipher the meaning and articulate in such a way that the message becomes universal. It might take us a lifetime to learn to do that, but when we do, we will leave behind something that will last much longer than us.
2. Share your work
Once you have a few pieces of work ready, it is time to find appropriate writing groups. Writing groups are the best way to get some objective feedback to improve your work.
It is also the least threatening way to get a critique of your work. It could be very intimidating for new writers to get their work critiqued. Writing groups provide encouragement and help and aren’t afraid to pick things apart when they need to be. I have been a part of various writing groups for two decades now and have benefited immensely from them.
How do you find a writing group?
Usually, there are some already in your city or town. Sometimes, when you attend a writing course, participants agree to continue meeting after the course and form a writing group. There are some online writing groups also available. One I know of is Ninja Writers, run by Shaunta Grimes and excellent teacher for fiction novels.
If nothing works, form your own group by giving an ad at your local writer’s center.
3. Introduce yourself as a writer
The time has come to call yourself a writer. You don’t have to publish a book to be a writer.
The fact that you’re actively and consistently writing and sharing your work with others is all the proof you need to take up the title of ‘writer’ and start proclaiming your writerhood to the world
So what are you waiting for? Go own your status!
Tell the world. Actively seek opportunities to tell people.
The best way to do that is to have an elevator pitch ready. An elevator pitch is a short, pre-prepared statement you use to introduce yourself. It is something you will use to tell someone what you do if you are riding an elevator with them.
You don’t want to feel embarrassed or hesitant in admitting to someone that you are a writer. A handy, ready-made well-practiced statement can do wonders for your confidence level.
So when someone asks you what do you do, rather than fumbling for words you can automatically say, “I am a writer, I write…”
Try using this statement even when you are not a full-time writer. Try it on strangers first then move on to friends.
The idea is to make your subconscious mind believe it.
Be ready for the next question, “What do you write?”
Keep the answer ready for that too. Keep it sweet and simple. In most cases, the person you’re talking to isn’t expecting a seamless three-paragraph book blurb. They’re simply curious about what you write.
There you have it, the three habits of sophomore writers. The sophomore writers, write daily, read daily, edit daily. They organize their work and notes in such a way that they can find it when they need it, they show their work to others and get critique to improve their writing. Most importantly they introduce themselves as writers without hesitation.