Whether you’re writing a novel, starting your own blog, wanting to write a sitcom script, or looking to become a professional copywriting, writing is a skill that you can continually spend time honing. Even if you’re confident about your skill level, there’s always room to improve.
In this guide we’ll take you through the main methods for improving your writing skills, so you can grow your confidence as a writer and reach your full potential!
Just keep writing
Like any skill, writing is improved by practising. No matter how much you read about it and try to learn how to better your writing, no amount of theory will improve it to the same level as trying it out.
Good practise requires consistency. Write whenever you can, and whatever you can. Even if you have ambitions of becoming a published novelist, you don’t need to dedicate all your time to your book. Any form of writing can improve your skill level.
To take the pressure off, write something you enjoy or find easy. It could be short stories, or even fanfiction. Maybe keep a diary or create a blog to encourage you to write regularly about a topic you know a lot about.
Any form of writing will improve your skills. It will get you thinking about how to put into words your thoughts, how to construct sentences in different ways, and how to find the right vocabulary to really capture and share your imagination.
That said, the best writers are also readers. While writing a lot is crucial, to improve it even more you’ll need to spend just as much, if not more, time reading.
If you’re writing fiction, then you need to read it too. Read within your genre to really understand what makes a story successful and how to most effectively use tropes, but also read outside the genre.
Read the big names. From Tolstoy to Dickens, and Hemingway to Morrison, read the classics both old and new. That’s the best way to expose yourself to new techniques, ideas, and ways that could inspire your own storytelling.
Read about writing
Along with fiction, there is also a time and a place for non-fiction. Essays about the craft of writing may sound dry, but they can open up new perspectives which you hadn’t considered before and reveal new methods which you didn’t know about.
Stephen King’s On Writing is a resource many writers endorse, but there are countless other articles and books out there that can help too. You might even find video essayists on Youtube helpful, such as Lessons from a Screenplay if you want to write your own film.
Know the rules…
Rules are there for a reason. From the correct uses of grammar to the standard approaches to structuring a story, the best way to achieve clarity and familiarity with your writing is by showing just how well you understand those rules.
But conforming doesn’t have to mean being boring. Renowned authors are able to create stunning, unique passages of literature by using the rules of English writing to their full extent.
…and know when to break them
Wanting to write the next Infinite Jest or Ulysses is commendable ambition, but unless you’re a one-in-a-million writer a more straight-forward, traditional narrative and style will be a more achievable approach of finding a readership and getting published.
That said, while good writers know how to follow rules, the best writers know when, and how, to break them. Sometimes you just have to be confident and know when being flexible is going to make your writing even more impactful. Breaking the mould can be the most rewarding way forward.
Also, it’s important to know when common advice should be shunned or heeded. For example, some creative writing tutors say that adverbs should never be used. But take a look at some of your favourite books and you’re sure to find some.
Know your audience
Reading widely within your chosen genre is the best way to know what’s successful both in terms of commercial viability and what readers want. Understanding what your audience expects is vital to a successful piece of writing.
Factors to take into consideration include age range and gender. Archaic, outdated words might be fun to flex the range of vocabulary, but they’ll feel out of place in a young adult novel.
Likewise, it’s worth acknowledging the typical characteristics of protagonists in your genre. If most readers expect to read from a woman’s perspective in a romance novel, then you will need to be really confident that you know what you’re doing if your main character is a man.
Take a class
While paid classes are by no means necessary to improve your writing, they do have benefits. You will likely learn new techniques or methods that you may not have thought about before. You will also be surrounded by like-minded people with plenty of enthusiasm for the art of writing.
More importantly, depending on the class, it will likely be taught by someone who has had their work published. This means you’ll get crucial first-hand insights into not only their writing process, but also what it takes to get published.
If you are considering taking a class, make sure to do plenty of research first. It’s important to take into account what you want to get out of it. You might want a space to workshop your ideas, or you might be striving to get your first novel published, in which case the credentials of the teacher are important.
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While workshopping your ideas in a class can be a productive way to get constructive criticism, getting any sort of feedback is better than nothing. While it can be tempting to keep your writing squirrelled away from the world, if you’re serious about getting published then you’ll eventually need someone else’s opinion.
Find a friend or family member who wouldn’t mind spending a bit of time reading over your work. Even if they have no interest in literature, there’s still a good chance that they’ll find inconsistencies in your storytelling or smaller grammatical errors that you haven’t spotted.
When you spend so much time working on the same project, you can become blind to errors in the text. A fresh pair of eyes can be a powerful tool to provide much-needed feedback for bringing your novel up to a next level.
Develop good habits
Regular practise helps to improve your writing skills, but so do other habits. By having a routine, you create a stronger mindset that helps you write consistently.
Along with writing regularly, make sure to take breaks periodically. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of having a comfortable workspace and using writing software that best suits your needs. You can find even more advice in our top 10 tips for becoming a better writer.