Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Importance of Always Learning & Growing by Jody Hedlund

This Writer’s Journey Wednesday, debut author Jody Hedlund is here to share a few important things she’s learned on the road to publication, as well as challenge us on our own journey. Welcome, Jody!

The Importance of
Always Learning & Growing

If a writer doesn’t grow, it will show.

Agents remark that one of the top reasons for sending a rejection is because the writing ability is not strong enough. Sometimes publishers don’t renew contracts because the author is unable to sustain a readership. No matter where we’re at in our writing journeys—whether unagented or contracted—we should always be looking for ways we can challenge ourselves to grow.

I’ve been writing for the past 16 plus years and have continually pushed myself to keep learning more about the craft of writing. Even now, with the release of my debut book, The Preacher’s Bride, I’m still looking for ways to make my next books better and stronger.

Here are just a few ways I challenge myself to be a perpetual student of the craft of writing:

1. Read writing craft books: I'm never without a new craft book in hand. I have two long shelves full and my library is steadily growing. On my blog, I’ve compiled a list of favorite books other writers have suggested (there are over 40 books listed). I usually check them out from the library first and then if I like them well enough, I buy them.

When I’m between book projects, I especially like to re-read my favorite writing craft books and try out new ones. It helps refresh me, reminds me of what I want to put into practice in the next book, and inspires me to keep aiming high.

2. Take notes: I have a stack of 4x6 index cards rubber banded together. These are the notes I've taken from the writing help books or blogs I’ve read over the years. I read through a few cards every so often to remind myself of the important things I've learned.

Sometimes just to give myself a boost, I’ll pull out cards that encourage me to keep going, especially during those dry times.

3. Pick one or two new skills to intentionally practice in my next book. As I’m reviewing all the information I’ve gleaned, I try to hone in on a couple specific areas that I can work on in the next book. Whether it’s giving my characters deeper motivations or adding more sensory details to each scene, I consciously push myself to implement a new technique.

Yes, this does slow the flow at the beginning. It takes a little more time and effort at first—just like any new skill we learn. But with a little practice, eventually the technique becomes second nature.

There are plenty of other ways to challenge ourselves: writer’s conferences, online courses, reading helpful blogs (like this one!), and getting feedback from editors or critique partners. The important thing is not necessarily HOW we do it, but that we ARE.

What are you doing to push yourself to grow? Are you doing enough? Or do you need to look for new ways to challenge yourself?

©Jody Hedlund, 2010

Jody Hedlund is a debut historical romance novelist who was a double finalist in the 2009 ACFW Genesis Contest. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children. She’s represented by agent Rachelle Gardner and her debut book, The Preacher’s Bride, is releasing in Oct. 2010 and is available for pre-order on Stop by her blog, Author, Jody Hedlund, where she chronicles her journey to publication and dispenses more of her two-cent writing wisdom.

To learn more:
Facebook: Author Jody Hedlund


  1. Thanks for the great tips, Jody. I like your idea of taking notes on index cards and reviewing them periodically. I'm going to start doing that.

    I'm in the middle of revisions and am stretching myself in so many areas my writerly muscles are aching. :-)

    I'm eager to read The Preacher's Bride.

  2. I like that idea of taking a skill and practicing it in our story. That makes it manageable - one skill at a time. I have so much to learn, I often wonder if I will ever get there!

  3. Thanks,Jody,for sharing your tips. I like your suggestion to pick a new skill and intentionally practice it.

    A good writer probably NEVER stops learning. There must be ways to improve even for multi-published authors. ;-D

  4. Thanks for having me today, Dawn! I actually really LOVE it when I learn something new that I can implement in my writing. Most of us really want to take our writing the next level and we can't do that unless we're intentional about it!


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