Becoming a Better Writer
Throughout this blog’s existence, I’ve shared everything from why reading is important to the problems with illiteracy, so today I thought I’d do something for my fellow writers out there, particularly the aspiring writers. Listed below, you’ll find some tips on how you can become a better writer. Please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with your own tips!
Punctuation, Grammar and Spelling
Pay attention to punctuation, especially to the correct use of commas and periods. These two punctuation marks regulate the flow of your thoughts; overusing them or not using them enough can make your writing confusing and jumbled. Also avoid wordiness. You’ll find yourself making fewer mistakes with fewer words. Cutting unnecessary adjectives is also helpful.
While spell-checking programs serve as a good tool, they should not be relied upon to detect all mistakes. As you finish each chapter or article, read and review what you have written for errors.
For grammar, it always helps to try reading the text aloud to see if it makes sense when spoken. If you’re not sure, you may use a grammar checker or ask for others’ opinions. If nothing else works, you can join a writing group or hire a writing coach.
Separate Writing and Editing
Avoid editing the first draft. Writing and editing have always been separate processes that use different sides of the brain, so they should be treated as such. If you see something you want to edit, you can make a mental note to come back to it later once you’ve completed the first draft. Remember, your writing will go through many drafts before it’s complete.
Here’s a neat trick for that. It’s what I like to refer to as the “Ray Bradbury Method.” Ray Bradbury once wrote an entire story in the dark, without seeing what he wrote. You can do the same thing by turning off your monitor (or your lights if you’re still sporting a typewriter) and don’t stop typing until you’ve completed your draft.
Write Longhand First
In the modern age, writing a story, poem, or article on paper might seem a bit arbitrary, but it’s actually quite helpful to a lot of people. Try writing your story, thoughts, or ideas, in a notebook and then later transfer them to the digital space.
Write an Outline
Outlines will keep your ideas in a structure so you’re not going all over the place to the point where nothing makes sense. Writing the book “in reverse” sometimes helps people as well. If you have an idea for the ending, try writing a rough draft of the ending, write only the main points of the middle (don’t get too specific yet), and then write the beginning. Now just fill in the details as you go.
Regardless of what tools you use to write, it’s important to hone your skills as often as you can or, like anything that isn’t used on a regular basis, it’s likely to be lost. Write 30 minutes a day minimum to keep the creative juices flowing. Set and follow a realistic writing schedule.
Learn to take criticism and seek it out at every opportunity. Don’t get upset even if you think the criticism is harsh, don’t be offended even if you think it’s wrong, and always thank those who take the time to offer it. As mentioned before, you can join a writing group or hire a writing coach.
Come Back to it Later
If you run out of ideas, sometimes sitting there and racking your brain isn’t going to help. That’s when you need to either move to another project or take a break and try again later. It might even help to wait until the next day if you’re not on a deadline. Just be careful with this one. You don’t want to procrastinate.
Read, read, read!
The last thought might not seem so obvious, but you’ve got to be a good reader before you can be a good writer. Before you even start the writing process, read as many books, articles, or other content that are in the genre or subject matter you’d like to cover. The more you read, the more naturally writing will be for you. Reading also helps to build your vocabulary.