“How can I improve my writing skills?”
That’s the question every writer asks, no matter if they’re writing book one or twenty. As writers, we’re always looking for ways to improve our writing skills.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic potion out there that will help you magically improve your writing (even though we all wish there was!).
However, what if I told you that while you can’t magically improve your writing skills, there’s 10 easy steps you can take to help improve them. All you need is time, effort, and the initiative to learn.
Are you ready?
Here’s 10 ways you can use to improve your writing skills, no matter the level, today.
1. Use Proper Grammar
The first way you can improve your writing skills is by utilizing proper grammar.
You want to have a solid understanding of the English language, from active to passive voice to how to best use adjectives.
It’s important to know the rules to make sure you’re not writing awkward or incorrect sentences. After all, even the most innocent tense shifts are noticed nowadays, and your readers will think about those when they see them.
When you know the rules of English, you can strengthen your writing because you can choose how to linguistically phrase something.
You should study the grammar you’re using, even if you think you’re beyond the basics — because chances are, you can still improve in this area.
Practicing Grammar makes Perfect
To improve your writing skills, you’ll want to practice good grammar every day. Buy a grammar guide and brush up on the basics.
Try going through your writing and picking apartment the paragraphs. Ask yourself:
- What words did I choose?
- How are my sentences structured?
- What tense or point of view am I in?
- Is there a word that would sound grammatically better?
Asking yourself these questions will give you a better understanding of your style and approach to writing.
Another way you can start improving your writing is by using proper grammar in your every day. This includes e-mails, texts, and whatever else you do online.
Why? Because if you take the time to use proper grammar, then you’ll internalize good habits.
Bad writing habits will leak into your writing and hinder you if you don’t try to master grammar.
After all, words convey our stories and feelings, so make them count. Build a good foundation and you’ll be able to see improvement in your writing.
2. Keep it Simple
The next way you can improve your writing is by keeping things simpler than not.
Sometimes, it’s tempting to use that fancy word or make our sentences sound sophisticated. However, this only confuses readers, and causes them to put down your writing and move on to something else.
You want people to immerse themselves in what you’re writing — and that means keeping them in the loop.
If readers have to continuously pause to think about what you wrote, they won’t stick around. There’s so many other activities that are more interesting than overly complex writing.
Think about the way you’re presenting information to your readers. If you can explain it clearly to someone else, great; if not, you may need to rework your ideas until you can.
Have a friend check for readability
Since you’ll want to improve your writing by keeping it simple, find a friend — preferably someone who’s never heard of what you’re writing before — and ask them what they think.
If they don’t understand what you wrote, then you’ll need to go back and revise.
Over time, you’ll improve your writing by understanding what needs to be there, and what’s filler.
Here’s some tips for choosing beta readers:
- Don’t pick someone who will flatter you. Your best friend will tell you how great it is, so that’s probably not the best idea.
- Have someone who doesn’t know anything about your topic. This is a good test to know if what you wrote makes sense.
- Don’t choose an English-minded person. We all have that friend (or maybe you are that one!), but try picking a beta reader not involved with writing or the literary world. Remember, you want to test for an understanding. Save this literary peer editor for revised drafts.
Take the first step and share your writing a peer. You’ll also be able to get other feedback that will help you improve!
3. Use an Outline
Another way you can improve your writing skills is by using an outline.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute. I don’t have time to do that, since I also need to complete X, Y, and Z.”
There’s certainly pros and cons to using an outline, but there’s no denying that outlining has helped numerous writers improve.
Outlines can help organize your thoughts and help you identify plot holes earlier. Outlining can also give you a direction and help you prepare before you write.
Experiment with outlining your writing to see if it helps you improve. You might find that it helps you consolidate and gives you more time in the long run!
Tips for using an outline to write
When you outline, you don’t have to write down everything word-for-word. Think of outlining as a guide that will you on your journey to finishing your writing.
Think of an outline like a floor map. You want to know where you’re going, but you don’t know all the details yet.
Here’s a few more ways you can successfully outline your writing:
- Use headings and bullet points. Make it easy to scan your outline and refer back to earlier points. An organized outline can help you improve because you’ll be able to go back.
- Keep things brief. You don’t need to write everything — just what you need. Remember, an outline is just for organizational purposes.
- Think about flow. When creating your writing outline, think about the flow of your work. Does one thought logically lead into another?
Outlining can help you improve your writing because it’s a great way to think about your story, characters, and events in advance.
Consider outlining to help yourself find what you need to make your writing hook and keep readers!
4. Learn to Edit and Proofread
When you write, you need to learn to critique your own work. That means you need to master the art of editing and proofreading.
It’s vital that you can become your best editor. Unfortunately, most agents won’t look at buying books that need work — they want ones that are 95% of the way there.
Luckily, you can steadily improve your writing by learning how to edit and proofread.
Over time, you’ll minimize errors and be able to quickly identify how to make your sentences stronger. You’ll strengthen your writing by eliminating common mistakes.
Tips for Editing and Proofreading
Proofreading is must if you want to go far in the writing world. After all, you might not always have someone available to read your work.
Here’s a few tips for editing and proofreading your writing:
- Use audio as your proofread. Audio is a great way to help you proofread because the voice will read exactly what you wrote. This can help you find awkward sentences and dialogue that isn’t natural.
- Learn to pick apart your own writing. Take a look at the words, phrases, and sentences you’re using. Now think about how you would critique someone else’s work. This can help you gain a more critical eye over time.
- Don’t rush the process. Oftentimes, spelling and grammar errors come as a result of a writer rushing the process. Take your time on each piece and make sure you give yourself an appropriate time to check.
Learning to become a professional proofreader takes time, but soon you’ll improve your writing skills and find self-critiques come naturally.
5. Read Often
Another way you can improve your writing is by learning from others. That means you should be reading often, especially books in your genre.
They say if you want to learn something, learn from the best. The best would be those who have gone through the publication process and made it to the end.
There’s thousands and thousands of books out there, meaning you have plenty of reference material.
All you need to do is go to the library and check out books. There’s no excuse for not having the ability to read, since there’s so much out there.
Why Reading Often Can Help You Improve
Here’s some more reasons why you should read often to help improve your writing:
- Reading can help you internalize good writing skills. You’ll get to see what a story looks like from start to finish, and have an example of character arcs. This can help you apply some of the best techniques to your writing.
- You know what sells. Reading what’s out there can help you get a sense of the market. You’ll know what editors generally accept, and you can tailor your work to fit the same genre.
- You can learn how others approach the craft. Everyone has their own writing voice, meaning we all have our own style when it comes to writing. Reading established works can help you improve your writing by understanding how to strengthen your personal style.
Curl up with a good book and start learning good writing habits today!
6. Practice, Practice, Practice
“How can I improve my writing skills?”
This is advice you’ll probably get whenever you ask to improve any skill, really.
Want to get better at basketball? Shoot some hoops.
Want to become an artist? Learn shading techniques.
Want to become a professional writer? Learn the craft by writing day in and day out.
You can’t improve your writing by thinking about writing and dreaming about your story. You have to actually write, edit, and continuously practice until you’re satisfied with the end result.
That means you have to decide to commit to your writing passion. You’ll want to work writing into your day and continuously find time to improve.
You have to put the time in to get the result. That’s how improvement works — we all start at the first page, and eventually grow into established writers.
Don’t be intimidated by not being “good” enough yet. Every writer started out with their first page and idea at one point in time.
Soon enough, your writing skills will improve and you’ll be a professional, too.
How to establish a good writing routine
Writing takes time to learn, and there’s no magic button you can push to magically become a pro overnight.
Luckily, you can develop a writing routine that will help you consistently practice good writing skills and set set goals for yourself.
Here’s a few ways you can start establishing a good writing routine:
- Find a time that works for you. Whether that’s early in the morning or sometime after work/school, find a time you can work writing into your schedule. You want to make this a time you can consistently write and stick to.
- Establish clear writing goals. Whether that’s a word count, a set amount of hours you write, or the amount of chapters you want to finish. This will help you improve your writing because you’ll have clear, measurable benchmarks to reach.
- Hold yourself accountable. Make sure you write, even when you don’t feel like it. Whether you reward yourself with a tasty ice cream treat after you reach a goal or deprive yourself of Netflix if you don’t write, do what you need to motivate yourself. You’ll thank yourself in the long run if you can improve over time.
Make writing a habit, and soon enough you won’t have to feel like you’re “forcing” yourself to do it.
Writing is fun — if you enjoy it, find a way to strive to work on your writing skills!
7. Join a Workshop or Take a Class
One of the best ways to improve your writing is by learning from a professional.
There’s plenty of classes out there that are taught by teachers or writing pros that can help you learn new techniques and point out where you can improve.
These writing classes are also oftentimes interactive, so you’ll get to work with other students that are looking to improve their craft as well.
Take the time to find a writing workshop or class opportunity in your area. After all, if you can find one with a quality teacher, you’ll gain invaluable knowledge you can use to adjust your approach to writing.
How to Find the Perfect Writing Opportunity
If you’re going to spend money on a writing class, you’ll want to find the right one. It’s no secret that there’s classes out there that don’t help or give any insight on the subject you want to learn.
That’s why you want to take the steps to identify the right writing class. A good course coupled with an excellent teacher can help enhance your knowledge on a subject and give you the tools you need to succeed.
Here’s a few ways you can find a reputable workshop or class:
- Ask your peers for their experience. If you know anyone who recently enrolled in a writing class at your local community college, ask them if they recommend the course. What they tell you can indicate if it’s worth your dollars.
- Read online reviews. People are more than willing their journey as a writer online, and that means they’ll be happy to let you know if something was worth it. Try checking out ratemyprofessor for anything that has to do with a community college, university, or recurring workshop.
- Enroll in a credible program. The best writing courses are the ones that have a good name behind them and praise to back them up. While you’ll have to check your area to find what’s available, there’s plenty of online courses that can help you, too. Check out Kate Sullivan’s list of the best online writing courses to find one that fits your budget and needs.
Think of investing in a writing class as an opportunity for you to grow as a writer. Over time, you’ll improve how you approach writing and learn how to navigate your natural voice.
8. Research Thoroughly
Another key to improving your writing is making sure you research the topic you’re writing about adequetely.
Even if it’s fiction.
Why? You don’t want to come off as uneducated.
That’s right — you want to make sure you know your history behind what you’re talking about. This will help you avoid looking like you don’t know what you’re writing on, because there’s always someone who knows about what you’re writing.
So if you have a story centered around a doctor, you need to know what he commonly deals with on a day-to-day basis. If you write about elves, you’ll want to know the mythological folklore so you can decide if you want to subvert a trope or pay homage to it.
You want to make sure whatever you write, it’s smart. You don’t need to know everything about every topic, but you need enough of a background to make your characters feel believable. Jake Wolff has a great article about learning to balance this within a novel.
Tips on Researching For Your Book
It’s important you’re able to get into the head of your character’s career or background. That means you want to know everything about the setting and their job description to help make your writing believable.
Readers will put down your novel if the background of your character seems forced. We read to escape, meaning you need to ensure you give enough of detail that immerses the reader into the world.
However, too much detail can also detract from the world you’re building. You want to find the sweet spot between well-researched and sounding like a history book.
Here’s a few tips on how you can research for your novel:
- Check out books at the library. Books are usually published by industry experts, so you want to check out books from credible authors. This will help you learn about whatever topic you want to incorporate — whether it’s history or a certain profession.
- Read professional websites and blogs. Get your information from websites dedicated to the topics you want to include in your book. Be wary of Wikipedia and no-name websites that might not be as reliable.
- Talk to someone in the field. If you’re writing about a literary agent, then why not interview one? Same with a cook. They can give you insight on their day in and day out you can use for your character.
You don’t have to know everything about a time period or profession, but you want to know enough to keep things real.
Bonus if you can find ways to add information that helps educate and entertain the reader!
9. Don’t be Afraid to Experiment
One thing that holds a lot of writers up is they work on the same book, over and over.
There’s nothing wrong with having a passion project, but without experimentation, you aren’t learning anything new.
Why? You’re not expanding your character set or trying new things.
It’s important to try different scenarios and practice writing daily. This will help you improve over time as you find new topics and scenarios to include.
Who knows, a new project might even change your perspective about a current one. Don’t be afraid to set aside some time to write something new!
How to expand your writing practice
Expanding outside of your comfort zone has many benefits for writers. It can help you try a new genre or come up with a new character you may have never thought of before.
It also gives you something tangible to practice with. It’s true everyone has a lot of thoughts, but without practicing turning them into stories, then you won’t know how to translate them onto the page.
Here’s a few ways you can start expanding your writing:
- Try freewriting. Freewriting is when you write without a plan or constraint. You just put words down onto the paper without thinking. This is a great way to practice daily by writing whatever comes to mind.
- Set aside time for practicing new things. Take thirty minutes to write something completely new. This can be an exercise you incorporate into your routine to help get your brain working.
- Don’t be afraid to start a new project. If you’re bold enough, you can rotate between projects.This can help you maintain your creative energy and help keep you fresh when you go back to your main goal.
If you continue to push yourself, you’ll be able to improve your writing through trial and error.
Give yourself a chance to learn how to write better by using new characters and scenarios.
10. Write Today
The best way you can start improving your writing is by writing today. There’s no doubt that we learn the best by actually doing the activity we’re looking to master.
Picking up a pen or opening up your word document is the best way you can start improving your writing.
You can think about writing all you want, but actually immersing yourself in the craft is how you’ll improve.
Don’t put off your dreams until tomorrow — “carpe diem!”
How to focus more on your writing
There’s no doubt that we have many tasks to do. Whether it’s homework, a project for work, or making dinner for the kids, everyone has their own responsibilities to navigate writing around.
With that in mind, it’s easy to put off working on your writing. It can be a challenge to find time if you’re an individual who wears many hats.
However, it’s not impossible to make time for your writing every day or a few times a week.
Here’s a few ways you can start immersing yourself into your writing:
- Tell your family about your goals. Let them know writing is something you’d like to pursue, and see if you can set aside X amount of time every week dedicated to your craft.
- Turn off distractions. Youtube, social media, and Netflix all distract you from actually working on your writing. Limit your time on these outlets by turning off your phone and the television. You’ll be amazed how productive you’ll be by eliminating these distractions!
- Find a quiet space in your home. Whether that’s an office room or your porch, find a place you can dedicate to working on your writing.
What are you waiting for? Start writing today!
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