5 Ways to Improve Your Writing
Hi everyone! Today I'll be talking about 5 ways to improve your writing. Now there is no magic spell or secret formula to improving your writing. It takes action. A proactive attitude. Only by writing - by doing - can you improve. It takes many hours, tears, and words to hone your skills and produce something that shines. Even debut novelists who sell the first novel they ever wrote had to go through several drafts to get there. No one just types out an 80,000-word book and throws it out into the world without a second glance. Everyone has room to grow, even the most famous writers. They will all tell you that! And you probably want to improve. Who doesn't? But you also might be wondering HOW. How do I improve? What can I do to make my writing better? Here's my 5 tips for growing as a writer, and at least one - if not all - will work. It might take time, but these aren't just random pieces of advice. They are things that have actually worked in both my own writing life, and that of other authors. Hopefully they'll work for you too!
1. WRITE A LOT
If you have to start out writing pretty bad material, do it. Everyone starts there. You can read every blog and book and article about being a great writer, but the only way you’ll actually improve your writing is to have some writing to improve! When I started writing my first novel, I had this pre-conceived notion in my head that it would definitely be published (haha I was barely a teenager guys… I didn’t know how the publishing world worked). Looking back at that novel now, I see all of its flaws, and how much I’ve grown since then. Hands down, though, that book was what led me to hone my skills and become the writer I am today. My second book, WHAT LIES ABOVE, has much better pacing, flow, dialogue, internalization… and many other things I’ve learned both by experience and by study. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But my journey progressed. I learned new things and improved as a writer. If I hadn’t written that first novel, I know for certain I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. So write lots, learn from your mistakes, celebrate your successes, and see by trial-and-error what works and what doesn’t. Every author is different, and you’ll only know what works for you and what your style is by actually writing. People like myself can advise you, encourage you, give you tips and tricks we’ve learned to hopefully spare you some bumps in the road, but we can’t write for you. Only you can do that! It’s hard, because that voice in your head says, "But I want to write like a pro now! I want to be published now!" It’s hard to wait. It’s hard to accept that you might have to write five books before anyone notices your writing. The literary world can give you some hard knocks along the way, but I promise, it will get better. The more you write, the more you know, and the better you become.
I did a guest post on this over at A Magical World of Words. You can read it here. I talked about how important reading is to a writer, and why it will improve not only your writing skills, but your writing outlook. Knowing your audience, the market, and your genre helps you break into the publishing world, and sharpening your skills as a plotter, drafter, and editor helps your writing ability. Reading other author’s works helps you understand pacing, plot twists, character development, and a whole array of other wonderful things. So read! In and out of your genre. Frequently. Voraciously.
3. FIND GREAT RESOURCES
This might sound like a complete 180 from #1, but it’s not. It is true that no one but you can actually write the material, but reading blogs and learning from other writers does improve your writing. You’ll learn new tips and tricks, like how to write a killer ending, or add depth to your characters, or show-don’t-tell. So while no one can actually write for you, they can help you learn how to do it. The key is to find good quality blogs and resources. Emphasis on the word “quality”… it is about quality, not quantity. Find someone who consistently offers great advice that is actually applicable to your writing, and which you find really inspires/helps you. I’ve compiled a list of great sites/resources I’ve found, which you can find here.
4. WRITE DOWN SCENES AS YOU THINK OF THEM
This one has been such a huge plus for me. I have the world’s longest list of random scenes, which have no attachment to any one project. I also have individual lists for each book. The list for my current WIP has over 11,000 words of scene chunks! As I write, I incorporate those scenes into the chapters. The reason why I find this improves your writing is because, when you are experiencing something, it is fresh. Those emotions and images are still crisp and vivid, and much easier to put into words. I live in the mountains, and often when I’m driving or going on a hike or something, I’ll think of a snippet of description, which I then write down… when the car isn’t moving, of course :) If I experience pain, like after the death of a loved one, I write those emotions down. Then, when a character dies and I need a really convincing description of a heart breaking, I pull from my experience. It makes the emotions much more raw and real, because they are real. Writing from experience will then prepare you and give you the skill to create emotions, settings, and scenes. It’s like painting. Many artists begin by painting from a muse, or subject. They place their easel beside a stream, or overlooking the mountains, or on the seashore… and they paint. Seeing and painting all these different landscapes then gives them the skill to paint from memory, or to simply create a scene all their own. Writing is very much the same.
5. EXPERIENCE NEW CULTURES, PLACES, & PEOPLE
This one goes hand-in-hand with #4. In order to feel emotions and replicate places, you actually have to feel those feelings and go to those places. Broadening your worldview colors your writing in so many ways. Knowing real, diverse people and observing their behavior gives you the breadth needed to write complex and interesting characters, with tangled backstories or complicated personalities. Seeing different places lets you create lush worlds with interesting settings, or for contemporary writers, broadens the places you’ve been and the places your story can take place. You want the setting to feel like the real place. But do you know what the real place is actually like? Now I’m not saying you have to hop on a plane and travel the world before you can be a great writer. Simply being involved in your local community will expose you to a whole variety of different people!
These are only 5 ways to improve your writing. They are not the only 5 ways, by far. But they are a good place to start. They are the foundation. It is how to improve your writing ability. Sometime in the near(ish) future, I’ll be doing a post on how to improve your writing frequency… as in, how to write more often, and more consistently. That’s a whole other thing, and that will be coming soon! Because you can’t work on writing well if you never make the time to actually write :)
What have you found improves your writing? Do you think you’ve gotten better throughout your journey/career? What caused that? What are some great writer resources you’d recommend? Share in the comments below, or at my author Facebook page HERE.