Writing is a craft. Something that is painstakingly fine tuned over time – lots of time. But there are steps you can take to improve your writing right now.
Write Every Day
This is nothing new. Forming a daily writing habit is something all writers strive to do. My most popular post last year was in fact how to make writing a habit! After all, the only way to get something written is to sit down and write it. But writing every day not only helps you form that habit, it also limits procrastination and staves off writer’s block. Forming the habit becomes natural, so sitting down to write doesn’t feel like a chore – just something you do. Writing every day keeps that flow going, and it helps to keep the creative juices in your brain simmering away.
There are of course those who say you don’t need to write every day, but in my experience, once I began writing daily and making a habit of it, my writing improved out of sight. The more you flex your writing muscle the stronger and more supple it becomes. Simple as that.
Join a writing group
One of the things that strikes fear in almost every writer, is having other people read and critique their work. It’s something that every writer must overcome, but it’s easier said than done. It took me a few years of writing to actually have the courage to put my writing out there. I’ll admit it was tough. Having someone pick through your work which you thought was the best thing ever written (of course it is), is never easy. But when you put your writing out there, your skin toughens and you realise that most feedback is constructive, useful, and will help you become a better writer.
By joining a writing or critique group of like minded writers, you get to dip your toe in the water gradually. You also get the experience of looking at others’ works in progress with a critical eye, which will also improve your own writing. When joining or forming a writing group my advice is to: limit the numbers, join with those who write in a similar genre, and with those with whom you feel comfortable.
This continues the ‘put your writing out there’ theme. There are myriad writing competitions all over the world to choose from. Some are free to enter, some ask for a donation, or minimal entry fee. Some are prestigious and well respected within the publishing industry and offer huge prize money or associated opportunities. While some have a much smaller reach, and recognition.
Whether you decide to enter poetry, flash fiction, short fiction or longer form competitions, the benefits will show in your writing. Entering competitions also teaches you write to a deadline, a word count, and other specifications. All of which will become essential skills when you score your publishing deal. While most competitions don’t generally provide feedback on your writing, there are some that do, which can be of great value. Most importantly they force you to tighten all aspects of your writing. And who knows, you may even get short-listed, or even win! You’ll never know if you don’t try right?
Use Writing Prompts
A great way to improve your imagination, creativity, and writing in general, is to use writing prompts. Again, you only need to scour the internet to find numerous prompts, and I mention a few here in this blog post.
When I use a writing prompt, I set aside a time frame, usually ten minutes, and free-write. It’s amazing what you can come up with once that timer begins. Writing prompts help you stretch your writing outside what you would normally write. I’ve written about excited kids at a shuttle launch, a first kiss, boarding the Titanic, a high school dance, and sexy food tasting at a French cooking school! Writing prompts are fun and improve your writing without you even noticing.
Use an online proofreading tool
Now this one is a little out of the box, and not something I’d normally recommend for creative writing, but online editing tools such as Grammarly, or the Hemingway App can be useful.
What they do is proof your writing for spelling, grammar, syntax, sentence structure, vocabulary use and so forth. Now with fiction, not everything that the editors pick up will apply, but by running segments of your work now and then, it will help you identify common errors such as:
– words you tend to overuse
– sentences that are not clear and concise
– grammar issues
– and of course spelling errors
While it’s certainly not going to replace the job of your critique partner, beta reader, proofreader, or editor, it can help you to improve on your most common downfalls quite quickly.
So there you have it. My 5 tips to improve your writing right now. Which one are you going to try?