10 Ways to Improve Your Writing

There’s all kinds of advice out there you could offer to someone who’s looking to get better at writing. Foremost among these are, of course, write and read as much as possible. But these are rather vague suggestions at best, and there are a number of other things you can do as well. So, here you are:

1) Edit

There’s nothing like reading through and spotting the mistakes of others to show you what’s wrong with your own writing. Indeed, if you find think your work is as good as it can get, perhaps you should put it down for a while, do some editing for other folks (you can even do this professionally and get paid for it, if it interests you), then come back and look at your work. You might be surprised how many problems you find.

2) Take a Class

I was invited to take a creative writing class a few years back by a teacher who saw some of my rough work and liked it. I did so with the fear that it would probably be a bunch of boring lectures about stuff I already knew from hard experience. Quite wrong! I learned a good deal from that class, particularly about the publication and marketing processes, and the critique groups were a valuable tool too.

3) Learn a Language

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but learning another language can be fun (it’s been a hobby of mine since about the age of 12), and it can be very useful in helping you understand how your native one works. And from what I’ve found in my over decade-long studies is that, as with many such skills, the more you practice, the more you get out of it. (This one has the added bonus of being a good practical/job skill, too.)

4) Get Reviews

As hinted at earlier, critiques from other people (ideally someone other than a close family member or best friend–though their input can occasionally be useful too) can really help you develop your story and style. You’ve only got one pair of eyes and one mind with which to process what you see, so you can’t possibly catch everything in a single go, and there are some things you might not ever notice because of your particular viewpoint or interests. But if you have other people look a book or story over, they can generally find things you might not think about, and such feedback can help expedite the process.

5) Set Goals

Whenever you’re writing, just going at it sporadically with no aim in mind is probably not going to motivate you for very long. It’s important to set deadlines or word count goals: something tangible to aim for. Ideally these are goals you can reach, though if you find you’re meeting them too easily, feel free to raise the bar a bit and challenge yourself to do more. It keeps things fun and interesting.

6) Attend Events

It helps to meet other people in the field, whether for exchanging ideas or simply for mutual encouragement. And nothing’s better for this (as I learned from the aforementioned writing class) than attending a literary festival or convention. Ideally you would want to find one that specializes in your genre, but even generic ones can contain a wealth of new information and experiences that can help you improve your craft.

7) Stay Active

Don’t just sit around your home office all the time waiting for inspiration to come to you. Get out there and experience life while you’ve still got one! Stay active in school, hobbies, work, or whatever else is of interest. There’s no end of ideas to be had if you’re just willing to go and find them.

8) Get a Good Night’s Rest

As with all things, a good night’s sleep is important. Not only do you have the potential for dreams (see the next paragraph), but it’s much easier to function and work your way through the creative process if your mind is well rested and alert. Dozing at your desk isn’t going to get that book finished for you.

9) Write Down Dreams

Keep a writing pad and utensil by your sleeping place at all times, ideally in a spot where you can reach them without having to look. If you have an interesting dream that you remember when you wake up, write it down as quickly as you can, with as many details as you can remember. It’ll probably come out weird, and make little to no sense as a narrative unto itself. But there’s always the chance you might find some elements useful someday when your short on ideas. If nothing else, they can make interesting stories to relate to others when the conversation’s dwindling.

10) Read Aloud

Short of getting someone else to critique your work for you, you can always try narrating it aloud to yourself (or to an audience, if you’ve got a particularly good reading voice). I’ve only tried this a couple times myself, but it is true that you can catch certain mistakes that you otherwise wouldn’t. Some things look just fine on a printed page, and it’s not until you actually hear them spoken that the awkwardness comes forth. This is especially good for editing works with a lot of dialogue in them.

Hope you found something useful here. Until next week!

Published by J. S. Allen

J. S. Allen is an author based out of Kansas City, Missouri. He has previously published several short pieces in various local and online venues. Among these are the short stories "The Buck" and "The Otter Kit Streamer", which won 1st and 2nd place respectively in the 2015 and 2016 editions of the academic journal, 'Shorelines'. His latest novel, 'Sauragia', is now available for pre-order.

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