Writing Notes: Focused Practice

Last week I was reading one of Dean Wesley Smith’s posts in his series called “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing”. If you aren’t reading these, you should be – there’s a ton of excellent information in them. This particular chapter is titled, “Writer’s Don’t Need to Practice“. He’s busting the myth that professional writers don’t have to hone their craft constantly.

I was a little confused at why this was a myth, to be honest. Or to be more clear, I couldn’t figure out why people would believe that professionals didn’t still have to work at writing stories – writing *better* stories. Do people really think that having a certain number of books out makes learning unnecessary for writers?

And all experience aside, nearly every writer I know is a perfectionist, or at least works hard to tell the best story they can. Will those writers ever quit trying to tell a better story? Hard to say, but I doubt it.

The thing is, in my experience, every book is different. Every set of characters are different, and each book requires a different challenge to be met on the part of the writer. This is all inherent to the writing for me – and it’s what normally feeds these writing notes. I draw off of whatever I’m dealing with at the moment in any given story, and try to make heads or tails of it while I write. That sort of thing can all be classified as “practice”, in my opinion. But it’s not deliberate – I just sort of stumble into it, and play with it until I feel pretty good about how it works.

What Dean advocates in his post is what he calls “Focused Practice”. It’s choosing one thing to work on in the next story before you even start writing, and then practicing that one skill every chance you get. Then with the next story, you pick a different skill, etc. Rather than my bumbling “stumble over it” method of finding things to work on (which I’m sure will still happen), it’s something to keep in mind for the whole novel, not just the individual scenes where things jump out at me.

I’m going to try this with my next draft. I’ll be writing some flash fiction soon, and that would be a perfect place to start, I think. I want to see if having a focus for practice will make any difference over picking things out as I go.

Have you ever tried this? How do you practice your writing?

Enjoy this post? Support your author:  Tempest | Desert Heat | The Biker’s Wench

note – comments take a few moments to appear. Refresh the page to view
new comments. If this is your first time posting, your comment will be


2 comments on “Writing Notes: Focused Practice

  1. Samantha Hunter

    Hey Jamie. I don’t know. I read a few of his blogs, and they seemed like they could be cut by half to make the point, so I lost interest, LOL. But my thought is why not do both? I think I do both all the time — there is usually something I am focusing on doing better in each book, something I learned from the last one, etc or from another source, BUT I remain open to what the current manuscript has to teach me. Different books will offer different challenges and so they will offer different lessons. I think what you call your stumble upon process is just being open to the needs of the manuscript you are in, but that in no way means you can’t still be refining particular elements, as well.


  2. Ardee-ann Eichelmann

    I do specific writing exercises to focus on and practice my writing. I use one word prompts to create either flash fiction, short fiction or intentionally bad short fiction. It takes practice and focus to do all three of these things. I work hard at my craft even in writing my blog I work hard to write it well. This requires focus and practice too. Sometimes I do okay and other times, not so much but the focus is there.

    BTW, I am reading Dean Wesley Smith’s series. I seem to have missed some posts which I will blame on the way FB bundles Networked Blogs…things get lost in the tumble that is much like a bundle of unsorted laundry. It is very aggravating. I will see one of his posts and wonder what I have missed. I will be buying his book when he finishes his rewrite.

    Okay, I have answered your question and gotten in my monthly rant about network blogs. Life is good.