If you’ve always dreamt of becoming the next Shakespeare, Bronte or Austen, raise your hand. If you just want to write better school essays or blog posts, raise your hand too. Well, haven’t we all!
The key to doing both of these things to sharpen your writing skills and become a better writer.
It might sound easy, but it really isn’t. Becoming the best writer you can be takes hard work and dedication but it is worth it.
If you’ve been trying to write better, but it seems like you’re not getting anywhere, here are seven writing tips to become a better writer.
Decide what kind of writer you are
Before you start writing, you have to first figure out what kind of writer you are. You have to ask yourself—and answer—questions that would help you determine your niche or genre. That way, you can maximize your skills and become an expert in your writing field.
These questions include, but are not limited to:
Reading has a lot of benefits. You need to understand that what you read and what you write are related. You are more likely to write around topics you read most about.
- Should I write fiction or nonfiction?
- What kinds of books am I always excited to read?
- How do I balance the types of text—or prose—I would like to write?
- If non-fiction is my passion, what types of non-fiction should I write?
- What are my hobbies and interests?
- What genre do I love reading?
- If fiction is my passion, what kinds of fiction should I write?
Do you read romance, science fiction, mystery thrillers, or any other fiction genre? Do you read business books, self-help, memoirs, or some other non-fiction genre?
Identify the type of text you would love to write. Each genre has many conventions, and to become a master at any genre, you have to master it in and out. If two or more book genres catch your fancy, it’s advised that you master one first before moving to the next one.
Once you have figured out what kind of prose you would love to write, you should start writing. To truly become a better writer, you shouldn’t just write any time you please. You should aim to write every day. It will most likely be difficult and draining in the beginning, but if you keep at it, you’d see the benefits; you might even begin to enjoy it.
Writing is a skill—you have to practice if you want to get better at it.
You can start by setting aside 15 to 20 minutes each day to free-write. It could be at any time—in the morning, during lunch break, at midnight. Whenever. Free writing involves writing your thoughts, plain and simple, on a piece of paper. It doesn’t have to be refined or be a story. Just write. Think of it as a journal. Focus every entry on personal growth or on a subject or niche you want to be an expert in.
If you are a fiction writer, you can also write down ideas. Keep a little notebook close to you and scribble new story or novel ideas in it.
Did you overhear a piece of convo that you liked? Write it down.
Did you think of a mind-blowing plot twist on your way to work? Write it down.
Did the street busker play a chord that inspired a lyric in your head? Write that lyric down.
These ideas and story snippets can inspire your writing a lot. If you can, extend your writing time to 30 minutes. An hour is even better. If you are a full-time writer, you’ll need to write for several hours each day.
Bad news—or good news, depending on how you see it—writing every day is not enough to make you become a better writer. You also have to read every day. But it is imperative that you choose the stuff you read widely. Skimming through a generic blog post or looking at Instagram captions count as reading too. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
When choosing reading materials, focus on the ones that give you a new perspective on things. Read books that make you think and become smarter. If you want to be able to take on more complex writing projects, read academic journals and literary fiction. Don’t read articles about the latest Hollywood scandal.
Read great writers. If you don’t read quality writing, you cannot produce quality writing. Learn from literary masters and imitate them. Through their words, you can find your own voice. Don’t just read a great novel for the story; ingest the style and mechanics of the author’s writing along with the story.
When you feel you’ve read a book genre too much, switch to another one. If you’re a fiction geek, try to read non-fiction books. Every now and then, read something entirely foreign to you—and learn a lot from it.
Here are some of the best books to read before the age of 30.
Don’t write and edit at the same time
Imagine this scenario.
You have a new story idea with an outline you’ve already mapped out. Now you sit to begin to actually write the story. You hunch over the paper, pick up your pen and write the first ten sentences. You pause and read what you have written. Then you find that the third sentence is grammatically incorrect. The last sentence does not convey the emotion you need your reader to feel.
You sit back and repeat variations of those sentences to get the best ones. When you have, you apply your correction fluid and rewrite those sentences to your satisfaction. Then you continue with the rest of the prose.
Is this how you write in real life?
If yes, then you’re doing it all wrong. This is a very normal behavior amongst writers—especially perfectionist writers. I am one myself, so I know the temptation to write exceptionally well every time you sit to write. But you have to resist it.
Why? Because writing your first draft perfectly is an impossible thing to do. It’s hard enough to get your story from your head onto a paper. Don’t make things difficult for yourself. The first time around, you should just focus on writing and pouring out your thoughts down on paper. When you’re through, you can reread and fix plot holes, grammatical inconsistencies and any other errors in between.
However, bear it in mind that after proofreading, your work is still likely imperfect. That’s what editors are there for. If you intend to publish your book and become a full-time writer, pay an editor to refine your work. Their constructive criticism of your work will help you fix writing problems and improve your writing style.
Write for your audience
This writing tip is directed at people who write for others. If your writing is limited to your journal or diary, you can skip this. In those instances, you’re writing for yourself, which is a very good thing.
However, if you’re writing for others—be it a novel or a business article—you have to keep your audience in mind during your writing process. If necessary, create an avatar of your reader—your ideal reader. You can fill in blanks like your ideal readers’:
- Age range
Writing for your ideal audience can help you avoid making huge writing mistakes. The way you’ll communicate with your neighbor next door is different from how you’ll communicate with your boss or clients.
Before writing, take out some time to extensively research your target audience/market and understand what they expect from you. Once you have an idea of what they want, you can easily give it to them. If you’re writing on heavy, gloomy topics, you can add a few jokes here and there to make for easy reading. Don’t joke too much though; you might risk coming off as someone who’s trying too hard to impress people they haven’t met.
The last thing you want is to spend many hours writing and having no one except your mum read your work.
Another writing tip for those writing for an audience.
Clichés are a goldmine for many writers. They are everywhere, after all. They’re easy to remember, easy to extract a story from, easy to write. But they are also very boring. They make it difficult for readers to concentrate on your message. Avoid clichés. Avoid them like the plague. This is probably the best thing you can do to become a better writer.
Let me tell you something: there is nothing a good reader loves more than refreshing stories. If your story is not refreshing or not exactly new, you can at least try to write it in a way different from most people. In fact, there are some clichés that, once noticed by a reader, would get your work dumped and forgotten about.
Personally, I detest Young Adult novels that revolved around the overdone trope of ‘The Chosen One whose destiny is to save everyone else from imminent danger.’ I don’t waste my precious time reading this book because I know it will most likely revolve around a very ordinary kid in a decrepit town who woke up one bright, sunny morning only to discover that they were born with a very special power. Some old seer saw a vision five hundred years ago about the birth of this child and his prophecy stated that once the child discovered their powers, some underworld demons would be let loose on the earth. This tiny kid who ironically doesn’t want to have superpowers must now go on to save the planet from the devil.
This trope has been overdone. Many stories are like this one.
Instead of writing about a male serial killer, make your serial killer female. Give them a compelling reason to kill. If you want to, write the story from the killer’s perspective rather than the detective’s perspective. If you want to spice things up, make your serial killer a disabled man or an elderly woman.
The bottom line is: write your story uniquely.
Write in different genres and styles
This one is also for writers who write for an audience.
Focusing on one genre is good—it helps you improve on your writing skills. However, it is also important to move out of your comfort zone once in a while and write in a style and/or genre you’ve never written in before. Doing this makes for an instructive process because you can learn writing lessons from each genre. You can combine these lessons to create something original and unique to you.
It is what professional writers do. Rarely do they ever stick to a single genre or writing style. Stephen King writes science fiction, horror and thrillers. Ernest Hemingway wrote short stories, personal essays and literary fiction.
Writing is fun. Explore it!
Publish your work
Even if your writing skills are trash, your parents or spouse will probably tell you they love it and that you’re the greatest writer that ever lived. This goes to show that your family’s feedback is not enough to make you grow as a writer.
Get feedback from people who don’t know you. One way you can do this is to publish your work. Spend some time proofreading, editing and polishing your pieces up. Condense, remove and expatiate what is necessary. But don’t take too long revising one piece.
Then publish it. This would be easy if you write for a magazine. If you’re not writing for any particular person, you can start a blog and post your work there. If you don’t know how to start a blog, these books will walk you through the (very easy) process. You can post articles or short stories or excerpts on Medium. If you write non-fiction, you can write guest blogs for other websites related to your niche.
If you write fiction, you can consider publishing your stories on WattPad. You can enter a fiction writing competition or join a writing workshop.
This way, you can get feedback from potential readers and other writers, too.
Here’s a recap of this article. To become a better writer, you must:
- Decide what kind of writer you are
- Practice writing
- Read voraciously
- Not write and edit at the same time
- Write for your audience
- Write in different genres and styles
- Publish your work