Everyone can benefit from learning how to become a better writer, especially as we’re all falling victim to text-speak. Whether you’re an aspiring blogger, a seasoned blogger, want to write the great American novel or have been inspired by EL James’ stunning success with 50 Shades of Grey; it began as Twilight fan-fiction and grew into an insanely successful book trilogy and, most recently, a blockbuster movie.
Stephen King’s On Writing is filled with no-nonsense pearls of wisdom for aspiring writers such as, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” We’ve got 15 more simple tips for how to become a better writer in no time.
1. Read More
As Mr. King says, reading is the best way to hone your writing skills. Great writers will inspire you, not-so-great writers will show you what you don’t want to do.
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2. Carry a Notebook
Always carry a notebook so you can jot down ideas, write down bits of thought provoking conversations and keep a record of noteworthy events in your day-to-day life.
3. Learn to Listen
Active listening is an excellent skill to have in every area of your life. When thinking about how to improve writing skills, listening helps you tune in to what natural dialogue sounds like. And you may hear something that sparks an idea for your next post.
4. Write Something Every Day
Writing is a muscle that you need to exercise constantly. Set aside time each day to write and really do it. It can be a diary entry, random thoughts or an entire short story—the important thing is that you write something.
5. Edit Yourself
Figuring out what to leave out is just as important as what you put into your story. Go over your work several times and edit out repetitive explanations and unnecessary characters or descriptions. We tend to over-explain when we’re passionate about something but it doesn’t make for interesting story telling.
6. Use Active Language
If you’re blogging or writing articles, try to use active language to keep it dynamic and engaging. For instance, instead of saying ‘I was at a movie’ say ‘I went to a movie’ or ‘I watched a movie’.
7. Write Like No One Will Read It
When you start thinking about who will read your work or what they’ll think about it you’re setting yourself up for a nasty case of writer’s block. Write your first draft as if it’s just for you and no one will ever see it.
8. Then Let Someone Read It
Then let someone whose opinion you trust read it and give you feedback. Even negative comments can be incredibly helpful and inspirational. Learning to be able to hear and learn from constructive criticism is key to how to become a better writer.
9. The Elements of Style
Get a copy of The Elements of Style and On Writing Well. Both are classics that every writer should own.
10. Be a Critic
Learning how to become a better writer involves learning how to read critically. Think about what you’re reading—why you like it, why you don’t like, what would make it better, what it reminds you of, etc.
11. Make an Outline
Good writing requires structure. An outline is the foundation to build your story around.
12. Don’t Be Precious
Don’t get too attached to plot points, characters or bits of dialogue. Be willing to axe what doesn’t work with the rest of the story. If you’re in love with a phrase or character but they just don’t work, save them for the next story.
13. Do Research
Always do your homework. Even if you’re writing about something you know inside and out, do some research to ensure your facts are correct and that you know what other people out in the world are saying on the subject.
14. Write What You Know
Write about what’s important to you or what you’re familiar with. You’re far more likely to be authentic and feel passionate about your work.
15. Set the Scene
Don’t get so wrapped up in working out a plot and creating characters that you forget to set the scene for all the action. When you paint a picture for readers, you’ll get them hooked from the start.