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Learn how to become a better writer with these top five writing tips. You’ll also learn how to become a better reader in the process.
How to Become a Better Writer
If you’re a writer, you’ve likely wondered what you can do to get better. There are entire books on the subject. However, you don’t need a how to book to improve your writing skills. The following five tips for becoming a better writer may seem simple and obvious, but are often overlooked.
1. Write Every Single Day
To become better at your craft, you need to practice. Whether you are writing emails, love letters, blog posts, magazine articles, short stories, or a novel, it’s important to write regularly. Pay attention and put some effort into each email. Make each blog post count.
Try Writing Prompts
Consider starting each day with a writing prompt. You can do an internet search for writing prompts, join writer’s groups on Facebook, or come up with your own prompts. Writing prompts are also a great way to overcome writer’s block.
If you are working on a large project, consider writing an outline. An outline is a great way to see if your story, or article, flows. An outline also helps you to get your big ideas on paper. When I write blog posts, I start with my headers first. They serve as an outline for my final post.
Try Different Writing Formats and Genres
A great way to improve your writing is to work in a different format or genre. If you are working on a novel, shake things up and write a magazine article. If you are a technical writer, try writing some poetry. Like an athlete, or anything else in life, practice makes perfect. Or as my son likes to say, “Practice makes better, because there is no perfect.”
Write What You Love
Whether you are a copywriter, ghost writer, or journalist; it’s still important to write what you love. When you write what you love, you write with passion. So if you write magazine articles for a living but really love poetry, write poetry. If you love gardening, write about gardening. Find what you love, and find the time to write about it. You’ll quickly see how much more you put into your work. You’ll also see how great your writing really is. It’s okay to get paid for writing you don’t enjoy. However, to get better at writing; make time to write in a genre you enjoy.
2. Read Every Single Day
The best writers read. A ton. However, you don’t have to read Shakespeare, Hemingway, or Austen to become a great writer. Reading what you might consider bad writing is just as important as reading what you might consider great writing. You’ll learn from other writer’s mistakes, and figure out what NOT to do. Follow these tips and you’ll also learn how to become a better reader.
Dissect Other Writer’s Work
When reading, it’s crucial to read a variety of materials. Read books, magazine articles, blog posts, brochures, and short stories. Read chick lit, memoirs, poetry, and children’s books. Each genre will teach you something different. Each author will show you their own personal style of writing. Dissect other writer’s work. Learn how they write, how their words flow, whether they use certain words or phrases often.
Read Your Writing Out Loud
Lastly, read your work out loud AND read as a writer; not a reader. The more I write, the more I find that I inspect sentences, words used, and sentence structure when I read. Think about how what you read could be written differently. Read your work, and the work of others, out loud. Do you get caught up? If so, the choice of words, sentence structure, or paragraph might need some modifications.
3. Brush up on the Basics
If you want to become a better writer, it’s important to start with a basic set of strong writing skills. It’s also important to know of any particular writing rules, even if you plan to break them. Lastly, it’s important to continue to brush up on the basics from time to time.
Consult Style Guides
There are numerous writing guides available for beginner to advanced writers. There are also a plethora of writing websites and resources online. Depending on what you write, there are different style guides to use and follow. If you are just getting started, “The Elements of Style” is a classic style manual to have on hand.
Be Mindful of Your Word Choice
The words you choose are one of the most important parts of your writing. You should always be thinking “how can I say this differently”. The best writers choose words that give more. More meaning, more feeling, more everything. For example, what can you say instead of “big dog”? No, not huge dog. Think more. You can use a search engine to find synonyms (similar meaning words) of words you aren’t sure of. Big = colossal, weighty, substantial, immense, mammoth. Depending on the sentence, and context, one of those words will have a lot more impact than the word “big”.
A cliché is defined as an overused phrase. For example, “he has his tail between his legs”. Great writers find new, and different, ways of getting their point across. Unless there is a specific reason you need to use a cliché, you should work hard to find words, and sentences, that do more.
4. Connect With Others
Unless you work for a company, or in an office, you likely write from home. Alone. Writers are often solitary creatures. You may do your best work alone. However, it’s important to connect with others to grow as a writer. Following are some ways to get your writing in front of other writers.
Join a Writer’s Group
You can connect with writers all over the world via Twitter, Facebook groups, or other social media platforms. It’s a great way to see what others are doing, discuss all aspects of writing, and maybe even find a mentor or develop a friendship. If you are on Facebook do a search for “writing”, or your genre and writing. There are thousands of groups on Facebook. Therefore, you should be able to find something that fits your needs.
If you can find one, join an in person writer’s group. Writer’s groups are a great way to get a fresh pair of eyes on your work.
Take a Writing Class
Taking a writing class is another great way to improve your writing skills. You can find writing classes locally through an adult education program, at colleges in your community, and even online. MasterClass has numerous online writing courses by authors like Amy Tan, Malcolm Gladwell, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, James Patterson, and more. I took both the Amy Tan and Neil Gaiman class and loved them.
Be Open to Feedback
Whether you join a writing group or take a class; it’s important to be open to criticism and feedback. You don’t have to take another writer’s advice. However, listening, and being open minded, might give you insight into your own writing, and any improvements that can be made.
5. Take a Break
If you write for a living, and it’s your bread and butter, you might not ever consider taking a break. Again, writers are solitary creatures and often write from home. This might mean writing all day, all night, or all weekend. TAKE A BREAK.
Working on a novel, short story, or article? Step away from it for an hour, day, or even a weekend. Take a walk. have a cup of coffee. If you must write, write in a different format. For example, a blog writer can take a break by writing a short story. Being too close to something, for too long, is never a good idea. When you come back to your work, with fresh eyes, you’ll find all your mistakes. Then you can start to edit.
In conclusion, I promise that if you practice the five tips above often enough, you’ll find that your writing will improve over time. Look back at some of your old work. Do you see a difference?
Do you have any special tricks you use to improve your writing? Share them with us in the comments section below. And don’t forget to check out my freelance writer’s guide for more writing tips and tricks.