If you’re aspiring to become the next Hemingway, Vonnegut, or Grisham, or simply hoping to improve your writing skills for school or your blog, don’t fret. Becoming the best writer you can be requires hard work but it’s a worthwhile endeavor. With some concrete actions, you can start your journey towards improving your writing skills today.
As an experienced fiction, newspaper, magazine, and blog writer for 17 years, I’ve learned that every writer has room for improvement. No matter what level of writer you are, there should be a suggestion or twelve here that will help.
Read great writers. This is the first step to becoming a better writer. You won’t know how to create great writing if you’re not exposed to it. Learn from renowned writers, emulate them, and discover your own voice.
Write a lot. Writing is a skill, and like any other skill, practice is essential. Write every day, as much as possible. Write for yourself, start a blog, or write for different publications. Write to write, and have fun while doing it.
Write down ideas, all the time. Keep a little notebook, or use apps like Evernote, to jot down ideas for stories, articles, or characters. Write down snippets of conversation, plot twists, or visual details that inspire you. It’s amazing how these ideas might inspire or help you develop your writing.
Create a writing ritual. Set a specific time of day that you can dedicate to writing without interruptions. Turn it into a routine and stick to it. If you’re a full-time writer, set aside several hours every day for writing. Don’t worry; it gets easier with practice.
Just write. If you’ve got blank paper or a blank screen staring at you, it can be intimidating. You might be tempted to check your email or grab a snack. Don’t do it. Start typing away, even if you’re just typing your name or a headline. The key is to get going and enter the flow of writing.
Eliminate distractions. Writing is best done in a quiet environment, so turn off email and instant messaging notifications, your phone and cell phone, and the TV. Use minimal writers like WriteRoom, DarkRoom, or Writer to maximize your focus and productivity.
Plan, then write. Do some brainstorming or pre-writing thinking before you start writing. Think of possible ideas while running or during walks and write them down. Create an outline and then start writing. This frees your mind and allows the writing to flow.
Experiment. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Borrow from other writers, experiment with style, voice, mechanics, and themes. Create new words if necessary. Experience everything and discover what works best for you.
Revise. Revision is where good writing comes into play. It separates mediocre writing from great writing. Re-read everything and aim for clarity, strength, and freshness. Eliminate unnecessary words, awkward structures, and confusing sentences.
Be concise. Edit every sentence and paragraph to include only essential information. Shorter sentences with powerful verbs are preferred over longer ones.
Use powerful sentences. Aim for shorter sentences with strong verbs. Variations are essential, but try to create sentences with punch. This may be easier during the revision stage.
Get feedback. Remember, you can’t improve in a vacuum. Get someone to read your work, preferably a good writer or editor. Accept criticism and use it to improve. Thank your editor for helping you get better, instead of feeling hurt.
Put yourself out there. This may be nerve-wracking, but it’s essential for every writer’s growth. Publish your book, short story, or poem, or write for a publication. If you’re already writing a blog, submit a guest post. It’s painful, but it’s necessary.
Learn to be conversational. Use a conversational tone when writing. People relate better to conversational writing than stiff writing. Breaking grammar rules to sound conversational is acceptable, but do so with good reason.
Start and end strong. The most important parts of your writing are the beginning and end. Hook your reader from the beginning, or they might not read the rest of your writing. Finish strong and leave a lasting impression.
Becoming a great writer takes effort, but it’s worth it. Start today by reading great writers, writing every day, jotting down ideas, and creating a writing ritual. Be open to change and experiment more. Re-read your writing, strive for clarity, and accept criticism. Put yourself out there, learn to be conversational, and start and end strong. Most of all, have fun and enjoy your journey as a writer.