Writing might be one-part talent, but it is also one-part skill. Anyone can be a writer if they put their mind to it. Knowing how to improve your writing skills will help you be able to effectively communicate what you need to say, whether that’s in a manuscript or in an email. Here are the steps that you can follow to make sure your skills are improving.
#1. Read. A lot.
Reading will actually improve your writing skills. This is because you’re absorbing more than facts in a textbook or clues in a murder mystery as you’re reading. You are also observing the structure of the text, the writer’s voice in the composition, and even word choice. This allows you to create your own “recipe” for writing because you’ll be taking the best out of what you read to add it to your own work.
This is often when the best advice to an author suffering from writer’s block is to start reading. Reading offers new ideas. Ideas translate into a desire to write. It also helps to provide you with a foundation for skill improvement.
#2. Imperfect practice creates perfect results.
In the skill of writing, practice does not make perfect. If you follow the writing advice that’s out there, just like many other new writers are doing, then all of your work is going to sound the same. You don’t need or want that. You need to discover your own inner narrative. That means imperfect practice can create perfect results.
To improve your writing skills, try to find time each day to just sit down and write. Shoot for 500 words, but anything is better than nothing. Just write what comes to mind. Then read it out loud. Correct any mistakes you see when reading it. That way your work is perfectly imperfect in your own unique way.
#3. Get the connections right.
Many writers are told to show their readers what is going on instead of telling them. It usually looks something like this.
Bad: John was angry.
Good: John gritted his teeth. His face flushed. Something inside of him felt like it was going to explode.
But showing someone an emotion can sometimes be misinterpreted. Let’s face it – in the example above, John might be feeling really constipated instead of angry. So you need to bring an emotional investment to the reader. Get the involved in the story so the correct emotion is experienced.
Bad: John was angry.
Better: John gritted his teeth. The tension in the air flushed out his face. Rage felt like it would explode out of his body.
#4. Get the dialogue right.
Young writers today have grown up on social media, a place where everything is shared. “I’m having a Diet Coke while using the toilet.” It’s a status update that happens more often than you might think.
And this has led to dialogue that is as stilted and vague as a passive aggressive status update. Your dialogue should always push the plot forward in some way. If it does not, then it doesn’t need to be in the manuscript.
You can get the dialogue right by thinking about what a real-life conversation would be like in a similar situation. Picture your characters talking like how your neighbors talk. This will help you to create a reading experience that feels realistic.
#5. Stop the crazy twists.
A story needs to make sense. It must have a logical beginning, middle, and end. A twist can be unexpected and entertaining when done right, but a twist needs to have clues dropped throughout the narrative for it to work. The reader can think back, remember the clues, and say, “Oh shoot – I saw that coming and thought it was something else.”What you shouldn’t do is just randomly throw in a twist for the sake of doing so. To improve your writing skills, think about how your story progresses in a linear fashion. Take the reader on a journey. This will help your book make much more sense.
#6. Descriptions must be thorough, meaningful, and short.
Ever read a book where the description of a sunset when on for 3 pages? You get it. The sunset was pretty. Great. What happens next?Yet you can also be too brief. “It was sunset.” Great. Give them more.
Your descriptions need to be thorough to engage the reader. They must be meaningful to matter to the story. They must also be short so they aren’t boring. Practice this and it will dramatically improve your writing skills.
Writing takes time to develop, even when there is a natural talent for it. Grab a pen, pick up your keyboard, or haul out the typewriter and start working with these steps. It’s the best way to practice.