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5 Important Things A Writer Can Do To Evolve -- by Angela Ackerman

A difficult time for me was the moment I decided to pursue publication as opposed to writing for myself and wondering if I was talented enough to do it. It meant peeling off the rose colored glasses and admitting to my flaws. To become a professional writer, I had to come to terms with how much I didn’t know. Like many others, I knew zilch about the publishing industry, how to approach agents and editors, and most importantly, how to hone my writing to get it where it needed to be.

I’m still learning and growing, but looking back at what helped me evolve to the point I’m at now, five things stand out the most:

Embrace Learning: This is the hardest and most important ‘mind shift’ every writer needs to go through. We all come into the journey believing our writing is good, special, something that will become great with some polish. The truth is that we all need a lot more than a spit shine. Once we own up to that, we can begin to learn from others. Opening myself to learning allowed me to set my ego aside and start thinking long term for publication, rather than believing my writing was almost ‘there’ now. I read a ton--both on craft and fiction--and made a tower of notes!

Find a Critique Group/Partner:  Making the decision to share one’s writing with others is a biggie. It can be scary to ask writers for honest feedback. You want them to love it and say it’s great, but what you NEED is for them to point out the problems. Accepting constructive criticism was a skill I needed to learn, and I found that by taking emotion out of it I was able to see that the feedback wasn’t personal. It took time to develop thick skin, but finding critique partners who were strong in areas I was weaker in was one of the smartest things I did! If you are looking for a safe and helpful critique sites, The Critique Circle is one of the best. I’ve been a member there for almost 10 years! 

Conferences:  Going to a writer’s conference is an excellent way to build relationships with other writers, interact & learn directly from professionals, and find out real information about how the publishing industry works. They can be expensive, unless you’re lucky enough to have one close by, but still worth it to save up to attend one or two as you are developing your career. The most important thing to do when choosing a conference is investigate. You want a conference that suits your current needs as a writer. If you are looking for an event that centers on writing craft improvement, going to a conference that is heavy on book marketing and industry information won’t help. Likewise, if you are a fantasy writer looking to connect with and pitch to editors and agents for your genre, attending a romance-focused conference will leave you dissatisfied. Attending a conference that is a perfect fit will leave you feeling rejuvenated, and give you the creative energy needed to go the distance.

Network:  One of the best things about writers is this: they are EVERYWHERE! Connecting with other people who love to write will help you to build a support system that will help you at every turn. Search for writing forums, blogs, facebook groups and twitter hashtags (#writing #writersroad), and you’ll find writers looking to reach out to others for mutual support and knowledge sharing. A new place to check is WANA Tribe. If you feel intimidated by jumping into something when it seems like everyone already knows each other or you’re looking for something new that focuses on sharing, supporting & learning from other creatives, Kristen Lamb’s WANA Tribe is a great emerging community to try.

Find Freebies:   Another beautiful thing about writing is that so much of what you need is FREE. Writing blogs, forums and websites are troves of useful help and info. There are a ton of great FREE writing opportunities out there , too!  Organizations like Muse It Up and Write On Con offer free online conferences. Sites like Miss Snark’s First Victim and Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing offer free writing/critiquing workshops. There are free monthly opportunities to win critiques, pitching contests to mystery Agents and lovely free vlogs from incredible Writing Gurus like K.M Weiland & The Plot Whisperer.  (The links I provided here are only a few of the great FREE resources out there, too!)

Tell me, what steps have you taken to evolve as a writer? What websites, groups or information sources do you recommend to writers?

ANGELA ACKERMAN is a CC member and Moderator, as well as a co-author of the bestselling writing guide, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression. When she isn't dreaming up cereal monsters or writing about Greek Mythology pychopaths, she blogs at The Bookshelf Muse, a description hub for writers and teachers.

Posted by Angela Ackerman 28 Aug 2013 at 00:34
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Responses to this blog

Owllady 28 Aug 2013 at 14:59  
Wonderful advice. For me the hardest thing is finding resources that are genuinely helpful. The internet is such a vast place that it can be hard to spot scammers and various less-than-helpful sites until you've already invested some time and energy in them. It's so disappointing to realize that all they're really after is adding you as a follower or getting your money, or both! So I'm always grateful when people I trust offer suggestions.

In addition to our first-rate Critique Circle, I like Savvy Authors ( They've got multiple opportunities for learning with all kinds of webinars and the like. Like CC, there's a free membership level and if you do a paid membership you get access to a few more things.

I also like Writer Beware ( This site is necessary because unfortunately the internet, as I mentioned, has pitfalls for the uninformed writer. It's not just the 'net, either. There are people in the industry who will tell you one thing over the phone, put it in a contract, then do something completely different and not to your benefit. We need to know who's trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

On the positive side, though, there are so many people and places where you will get honest advice. It's finding time to check them out that gets challenging!

Mksarma 5 Sep 2013 at 10:49  
Fiction Writers Group on facebook ( is a great place for writers. Unlike many other groups, the moderators/members in this group are very vigilant at the spammers and the non-writing stuff. is similar to our CC that runs with Karma points for critiquing. is yet another cool place for writers.
Momzilla 6 Sep 2013 at 23:13  
These are all great sites—thanks for adding them. I agree, as writers and business people (because that's what we are, or what we need to be to become successful at this business) we have got to be wary. Especially with the rise of Self publishing, a host of scammy sites and services have emerged in order to cash in on the opportunity of writers being in the driver's seat. Regardless of whether a person goes traditional or not, none of us have money to throw around, nor time to waste.

Checking in at Preditors and Editors and Writers Beware is a smart move. Too, writing is community focused, so if you are looking for help or need an opinion, just ask. People like to share what conferences were worth the money and what sites they visit. It can save a lot of time and heartache to ask around and see what others are doing to improve themselves.
30 Oct 2013 at 10:40  
A writer should also not be shy of getting feedback from his peers or people with greater knowledge than his. Constructive criticism is always useful and helps people write better. you can get examples of great write ups form sites like and Also for fanfiction writers you can go to where lots of people can see your posts and review it!

Emberleigh 11 Nov 2014 at 15:28  
Excellent advice here! Thanks for sharing. As an addendum to my writing practice and critique partners, I go through the Gotham Writer's Workshop book on my own and scour the exercises and re-read the lessons there! I think the refresher on the basics is always helpful, and the thoughtful practice exercises and examples used there tend to help me get out of writing ruts or stagnation if I'm experiencing that.
Adabeucher 4 Feb at 05:53  
The word evolve is perfect. I have been a Technical Writer/Editor for the US Government for 20 years. I thought I was a writer.
I published several articles in several magazines. I got paid for my items. I thought I was a writer.
I joined Fanstory and won lots of contests for my stories and poetry. I thought I was a writer.
I won a few online poetry contests. I got paid for my poetry. I thought I was a writer.
I self-published a Biography and two poem books. I thought I was a writer.
I joined the Wasatch Writers of Utah. I thought I was a writer.
I started Freelancing for Text Broker. I thought I was a writer.
I was attending a conference on writing a Query. I thought I was a writer.

Ottbean 4 Feb at 13:51  
The number one most important is definitely the ability to embrace learning.

I find that far too often people think they have reached a level of education/knowledge that makes them masters of the subject and therefore without more knowledge to gain.
One place aside from the creative world where I see this issue most is within animal communities. For instance, as an equestrian I know that I will never be able to know everything about horses, horse care, riding, etc. The research and education is constantly evolving. Too many pros in the field function as though they have all the knowledge and their only job is to teach what they know, not learn more.

what a boring life it must be when you think you have reached the end of what you can learn.
Molly O

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”
― Mary Oliver

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