Wednesday, August 14, 2013

10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

You've probably heard the adage about how to become a better writer--write, write, and write. I agree with the wisdom of those words, but there's much more I do to continually build my skills.  Here's my top ten list.
  1. Write. I’ve found no better way for continuing to master the craft than to write. Every day, if possible.
  2. Read in my genre.  I read other mystery/thriller writers to learn from their writing and to know the current market.
  3. Read outside of my genre.  The broader my own horizons, the more I can bring to the page.
  4. Read the recognized masters.  Such as Donald Westlake’s GOD SAVE THE MARK for his comic crime fiction, Jim Thompson’s SAVAGE NIGHT for hard boiled crime fiction, Scot Fitzgerald’s THE GREAT GATSBY, and Ken Kesey’s ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST, to name a few.
  5. Participate in a critique group.  
  6. Be open to critique. If you’re feeling defensive, you’re not being open.
  7. Be an observer of life. A student of human behavior.
  8. Write a scene from several points of view, both to see which POV works best for the scene, but also to continue to master each POV.
  9. Attend workshops, conferences or classes on writing.  Even if you’ve already familiar with the topic, find something to improve your writing and use the time to build relationships with other writers.
  10. Critique other’s work. Often it's easier to see all the moving parts of a story when it's not our own.
What do you do to hone your writing skills?  

Read more of Richard Hacker’s blogs at and find him on Facebook at

You can find DIRTY WATER, and Nick Sibelius’ previous Texas crime adventure, TOXIC RELATIONSHIP at your favorite digital bookseller.


Big Mike said...

One small thing I'd add, Richard. Sett your work aside for several months before you submit, then re-read. You'd be amazed how it refreshes your ability to recognize weak spots in your draft.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

All good suggestions. So you like Donald Westlake. I discovered him by accident, very funny guy. Sad to see he died at age 75. Have you every read Carl Hiaasen? He's a best selling FL writer. Bad Monkey is his latest best seller.

His syndicated column used to be in the Orlando Sentinel. He told us at a Forum dinner that if he didn't have any ideas, all he had to do was look at the Volusia County news section. Daytona Beach is located there. Lots of material!

Richard Hacker said...

Yeah, I'm a big Hiaasen fan. Often fact is more bizarre than fiction!

Liz Fountain said...

I would just echo to read both in and out of our own genres. I'm working on a middle-grade MS now, and so I started to read all the great (and good) novels for that age group I could find in my library. It really helps me pitch the "voice" at the right level (this is my first try at writing for younger readers). It also reassured me that I could tackle difficult themes and situations without having to sugar-coat everything.

Then I got tired of that and went back to some adult or all-ages novels, and it really refreshed my perspective, challenged my brain in some new ways, and will enrich the MS I'm working on for kids.

Oh and I adore Hiaasen, too; he writes books for adults and kids that are all amazing.

Liz Fountain