Discouraging, isn’t it?

You write a few blog posts and friends shower you with praises. You dream, Maybe I’ve got what it takes to score a publishing deal.

But then the music screeches to a halt.

You receive a scathing critique by an agent, an editor, an author.

And the storybook ending fades.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it over and over.

Writers ask me for feedback. I believe they want real input, but when I fill the page with red marks, their faces fall.

They hoped I would say, “Where have you been all my life? How has a major publishing house not found you yet?”

They weren’t looking for help—they were looking to be discovered.

You might have a boatload of talent—enough to tell a compelling story in a fresh way. But if you think that means you don’t need to refine your skills, you’re wrong.

I’ve written and published more than 190 books, including 21 New York Times bestsellers, yet I still need fresh eyes on my work. And I’ve had to become a ferocious self-editor.

Writing is a craft.

That means you must build your writing muscles and learn the skills.

Regardless how talented you think you are, writing takes work. Many talented athletes never make the pros because they believed raw talent would carry them.

That doesn’t have to be you, as long as you cultivate your skills.

3 Effective Ways to Hone Your Talent

Read, Read, Read

Good writers are good readers. Great writers are great readers. Mediocre writers are mediocre readers.

Writing in your favorite genre? You should have read at least 200 titles in it.

Read everything you can get your hands on. You’ll begin to notice patterns that’ll inform your inner critic about what works and what doesn’t. And you’ll see a noticeable difference in your writing.

Write, Write, Write

Don’t expect to grow as a writer unless you’re in the chair doing it.

Write short stuff first. Articles, blogs. Learn to work with an editor. Learn the business. Get a quarter million cliches out of your system.

Welcome Brutally Honest Feedback

The fastest way to shave years off your learning curve is to seek real input from someone who knows.

But prepare yourself first. Your ego is likely to get a bruising.

Yes—the red pen hurts. During my early years in the newspaper and magazine business, my editors tore my work apart.

But it made me the writer I am today. Without that scrutiny I don’t know where I’d be.

Being heavily edited just means you can get better. So take advantage of every opportunity to grow. Assume there is always room for improvement—because there is.

I am still learning and sharpening my skills, after over 50 years in this game.

Tell me in the comments how you plan to act on this advice this week.

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