9 Ways To Dramatically Improve Your Writing Even If You’re Just Starting
Let’s get this out of the way: Writing can be hard. Even if you love to write, it can be difficult to hone this skill because it combines so many different aspects of both logic and creativity all at once. Writing isn’t really one skill when you get right down to it, either; it consists of many skills fused together, especially if you’re writing with any kind of intention of making an impression on your audience.
You have to be able to formulate clear ideas in your mind first of all, and then second of all, you must translate them to a reduced verbal equivalent. Because of this, a good writer is necessarily a good thinker as well. A good writer is also a master of efficiency.
Now, that’s all well and good, but when you’re just starting out, how do you improve? How do you learn to think like a writer and become clear and more concise in the expression of your ideas?
Take a look at these 9 suggestions, and maybe they can help you start to make the transition towards mastery.
1) Read everything.
It may seem obvious, but the best way to learn how to write is to read a lot, in the same way that we learn to speak a language fluently by listening to hours of speech. So expose yourself to the language of the written word daily, constantly, and examine your favorite writers closely, keeping an eye on what it is that attracted you to them.
It may sound nerdy to keep a “diary,” but when you’re journaling with the purpose of improving your writing, it’s much more than simply writing about your feelings. To be able to learn to competently write, you have to write for hours and hours and hours—there is no way to get around this; it is the same with any skill. Journaling every day, no matter what you write about, will help you to put in those hours of practice that will help turn you from a beginner into a master.
3) Surround yourself with more experienced writers.
The worst thing you can do when trying to improve yourself is to only consult with people who will be impressed by what you do. The key to changing for the better is feedback, and since most people aren’t very good writers (because, just as with any skill, they lack experience), you will need to ask people who actually know what they are doing for that feedback, even if it will break your ego a bit.
4) Write a certain amount every day.
Set a goal to write a certain amount of pages or words per day, and try not to skip any days. Becoming stronger at writing is like working out your muscles in the gym; if you don’t go frequently, your work means almost nothing, and you’re very unlikely to grow.
Be merciless with your self-reflection. While, to a certain extent, sometimes it’s good to believe that you’re slightly better than you are, or else you may get discouraged, always be looking at your work for ways to improve. This is a lifelong process.
6) Give everything (and everyone) more thought.
As mentioned before, being a good writer means being a good thinker. The two are intimately connected because writing really is just the art of turning amorphous thoughts into exact, specific words. Because of this, simply being more thoughtful in your everyday experience will help you to become a good writer. Look especially at the little things that people do and try to find the reasoning behind their motivations. This will make you better equipped both to write realistic characters in fiction and to write with your audience’s desires in mind in nonfiction.
The worst kinds of writers are the kind who don’t talk about anything specific, they just talk. Their words have no meaning; they are words without fleshed-out ideas backing them. When you write, always pay close attention to whether or not you have given examples to support the ideas that you are conveying. No matter how abstract the concepts you need to write about, always try to break it down to the most basic examples.
One way to get very used to doing this is to catch yourself when you’re thinking of something abstract—“love,” “happiness,” “revenge,” anything that is vague and abstract—and try to come up with concrete situations, people, or objects that help to anchor these things to reality and convey how you feel about them. This way, you never take the meaning of something for granted. In other words, always explain yourself.
8) Clarity first, fanciness second.
Try to let go of your vanity and see things from the reader’s perspective. Usually, the reader simply wants to be informed or entertained. Skip the flowery phrases or anything else that is over-complicated, since this impresses no one anyway.
Above all, be efficient. Why say what you want to say in 300 words if you can say it in 100, or even just 1? This is an idea that applies to nearly any creative field, from painting to engineering: Trim the fat. Keep your audience in mind and deliver what they want in the simplest way possible.
Now, if you’re not quite where you want to be in your writing ability, don’t worry about it too much. Learning to write is a process, and everyone—even the most experienced writers—are constantly facing challenges to improve themselves. The best you can do is to stare at that blank page (or word processor) and start writing.