The craft of writing can be a very intimate pursuit for people who are just starting out. But make no mistake, pros are just as scared of the white page as beginners are! No matter what kind of writing you are looking to do, you need to ensure that you are constantly trying to improve your craft.
Like anything else, if you don’t practice the craft on a daily basis, your skills will quickly deteriorate. This is especially a problem when you consider that time taken away from the intimidating white page makes it even harder to return to it.
No matter where you currently are in your writing journey, you can always use more tips to help improve your craft and make you the absolute best writer that you can possibly be. Here are fifteen crucial writing tips that will improve your craft and relight your passion for writing and storytelling.
1. To Be A Good Writer – Read
Without a doubt, the best way to improve your writing craft is to read as much as you possibly can.
Reading improves your ability to connect and understand concepts, to imagine concepts and stories of your own, and to better understand how a language works.
You are far more likely to unconsciously remember grammar and punctuation rules if you’re an avid reader, because your mind will get used to the correct visuals, so when you see an incorrect punctuation you will be able to tell right away. Also, don’t just read a single genre or just fiction. Read as many different texts as you possibly can, from various authors who come from a variety of cultures. The more you expose yourself to other people’s way of telling a story, the better you will become at telling yours.
2. Stay Original to Your Own Voice
Every writer has their own voice. For example, there are many books in the horror genre out there. But if you were to pick up a horror book writer by Stephen King, by the fifth page, you would be able to tell that it was written by Stephen King. Authors may have a similar voice to one another if they write in the same genre or come from similar cultures, but make no mistake, no two authors are ever the same. The problem with finding your own voice is that it takes time. The even bigger problem is that there are courses out there which claim that they can find your voice for you. This is simply a marketing plot. You find your own voice by writing as much as possible. You will be able to feel your own voice coming out when you realize that you have a specific way of viewing the world and commenting on what you see in it (regardless of whether the world you are dealing with is fictional or not). As soon as you recognize that your voice has been developed, stick to it and never let it go.
3. Develop A Writing Routine
If you want to become a professional writer, you will need to develop the ability to write even when you would rather be doing something else. No matter how busy you may be or how difficult your day job is, if you are looking to become a professional writer you will need to take it seriously. Come up with a writing plan that suits you and your style of life. Some people love writing in the morning, some at night, while others grab any writing time that they can possibly get. One of the best ways to ensure that you are sticking to this goal is to decide on a daily word count that you absolutely must reach before going to bed. This way, you will oblige yourself to write even on days when all your plans for the day have not gone the way you expected.
4. Take Care of Your Health
There is a popular stereotype about writers, which states that writers need to either be depressed or have an addiction in order to create truly meaningful work. This is of course absolutely not true, and under no circumstance should you ever put your body in a negative environment just to try and imitate someone else. You need your body to be as healthy as it can possibly be. In order for your brain to work properly, you need to nourish it with healthy food so that you can maintain your concentration and energy levels. Stick to a healthy diet and regular exercise, and you will soon realize that nothing else could ever help you more in your writing craft.
5. Practice Every Single Day
Don’t ever let a day go by without writing. Even if the day has been excruciatingly busy, don’t go to bed without writing a single word during the day. If you really cannot come up with anything new, think about the day you’ve just had and write about that. The more you write, the faster your mind will be able to conjure up new, properly constructed sentences, and you will notice that writing will gradually become much easier to do.
6. Join A Community
There are many communities all over the Internet which are based entirely on supporting writers. You can choose to join a forum, sign up for an interactive newsletter, or join a social media writing community such as the #WritingCommunity on Twitter. Writing communities are a great source for tips, free marketing of your work, and the latest news and updates about everything that would interest a writer. Plus, because many people don’t know others in real life who are also writers, online communities are a great place for writers all over the world to get together and enjoy their time as writers.
7. Develop Your Own Editing Skills
Yes, an editor is crucial for ensuring that your work is at the highest possible quality that it could ever be. But there are two things to keep in mind here. First, not everyone is able to afford an editor early on in their career. And yet, you still need to be able to polish your work as much as possible if it will not be seen by another set of eyes before it is published to the world. Second, an editor isn’t just there to fix your grammar and punctuation errors. The cleaner your initial draft is, the more the editor will be able to focus on the entire writing as a whole and provide valuable tips regarding the logic of the information presented in the text and the style of writing.
8. Kill Your Darlings
Anything you can say with fewer words – do it! The skill of writing comes with the ability to say everything you need to say with a concise selection of the perfect words for the job. Likewise, you may also be bombarding the reader with information that they really don’t need to know. The reader doesn’t need to know what every single character is wearing to the smallest detail. Instead, mention only the things that are truly important for your story and let the reader fill the empty pieces with their own imagination. So, if you see a sentence, a word, or even a character that is clogging your writing – delete them immediately.
9. Complete A Workshop
Although it is important to improve your craft of writing as a whole, it is difficult to try and perfect every aspect of writing at the same time. This is where workshops and masterclasses come in handy (both the online versions and the real-life ones). These classes focus one aspect of writing at a time (for example, use of adverbs and adjectives), which allows you to focus on improving one very specific skill at a time. There are many such workshops an masterclasses online, and many of them are free. They are an invaluable way to improve your ability to write and you should aim to make use of them whenever you can.
10. Write What You Know
This is a topic that writers often debate about – whether you should write what you know or explore as many different viewpoints and worlds as possible. Although it is wonderful to explore, you are far better off sticking to topics, experiences and emotions that you are already familiar with – especially if you are just starting out with your writing craft. By sticking to this rule, you will be more likely to convey the right descriptions and emotions to the reader, ones that they will actually be able to understand and perhaps even relate to. If you try to write about something that you know nothing about, your inexperience in the area will backfire on you and make you look like an amateur.
11. Start with Short Stories
Many writers are intimidated by the sheer size of a project when they start working on it. This fear causes procrastination to kick in very quickly, and often results in the project never being finished. If you are one of these people, you are better off starting with short stories. They can be as short as 500 words or as long as 20,000 words. They give you enough space to tell a story without having to tackle a massive writing project in order to do so. Therefore, write as many short stories as you can, and focus on using their short format to practice writing only the details that a reader actually needs to know.
12. You Are A Writer
If you write every day and you do your best to hone your craft – you are a writer. You don’t need to be traditionally published, win awards, sell a certain number of books, or have a certain number of publications. A person who writes regularly and is in pursuit of a professional writing career is a writer. If you avoid calling yourself a writer because you feel like you haven’t achieved as much as someone else, you will always have a difficult time placing yourself in the right mindset to actually write. So, head up, back straight, and get to writing because you are a writer!
13. Get Rid of the Passive Voice
There’s a reason why everyone is so sour about the passive voice any time it appears in writing. It is because the passive voice distances the story from the reader. It places the action in a sort of unspecific time period and makes the characters and the narrative sound like they are happening somewhere far away. You don’t want to distance the reader from your world because you need to give them the right time and atmosphere to connect to your characters and to the information that you are providing them. An occasional passive voice here and there is not a big deal but try to have as few of these sentences as possible when you write.
14. Grab the Reader in the First Three Pages
Whether we like to admit it or not, we don’t have the same amount of patience or concentration as we once did. The Internet and the overwhelming amount of information that we have to deal with on a daily basis have caused us to have very little patience when it comes to experiencing something new. Keep this in mind when you write. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, the sooner you grip the reader and make them interested in what’s coming next, the more likely they will be to read your work all the way to the end.
15. Writer’s Block Is A Myth
Let’s get one thing straight – this does not mean that there will never be times when you find writing difficult. There will be many such occasions, but they are not happening out of your control. Whenever someone mentions having writer’s block, they often make it sound as if some external force is blocking their ability to write. It’s a form of procrastination, which for some people can last for months, even years. Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you really don’t feel like writing – write some more. You can switch to writing something completely different, but don’t drop everything and claim to have writer’s block, because you never know how long it will take for you to get back to writing if you fall under the influence of this belief.