Some people believe that accomplished writers are born with a natural gift for language. In truth, almost all of today’s most prolific novelists, poets, playwrights, lyricists and screenwriters attribute their success to effort. Putting words on a page is an acquired skill, developed through years of practice and dedication.
If you’re committed to improving your work, we’ve compiled four of the best tips and tricks to guide you on your journey. You can learn how to become a better writer one day at a time, implementing some of the suggestions below. You’ll find the path to progress is simple.
1. Edit Past Work for Brevity
It’s common for an amateur writer to fill their prose or poetry with unnecessary adjectives. They feel as though they’re providing clarity when in truth they’re distracting from the purpose of the line. To illustrate the difference between a concise and wordy sentence, check out the following examples:
- I visited the grocery store and found fresh produce at an affordable price.
- I visited my local grocery store and found ripe, succulent produce at an amazingly affordable price.
The first sentence is straightforward and doesn’t deviate from its purpose. The second sentence includes extraneous information without adding anything of value. While “ripe” and “succulent” are more descriptive than, say, “fresh,” a reader can extrapolate that idea in simpler language.
An economy of words is always preferable to a pileup. To practice brevity in your writing, find something you’ve already written and remove the excess descriptors. If you’re adding two or more adjectives to a single noun, you’ll slow the pace of your prose or poetry and disrupt its flow.
2. Try Freewriting Exercises
There are few problems more detrimental to an author than writer’s block. It’s a constant struggle for some, placing words on a blank page. They fall into the trap of perfectionism, writing and rewriting the same line over and over until their incessant editing renders the original sentence incomprehensible.
You can avoid this issue by freeing up your mental faculties. All it takes is a 10-minute exercise before beginning a new piece. Sit down at your place of work with a notepad and scribble whatever comes to mind, suppressing the impulse to change and rearrange your words.
In conditioning yourself to follow the flow of your thoughts, you won’t second-guess yourself as often. The blank page will seem full of possibilities, no longer daunting, and you can approach it with less rigidity and hesitation. Try the exercise once a day, and you’ll see a marked improvement.
3. Read Your Work Out Loud
Editing is an essential phase of the writing process. You need to polish your work to a pristine shine, removing duplicate words and fixing typos where you find them. While this is integral to producing high-quality work, most writers are content to read through a piece silently in their head before saving it as a final draft.
You should go one step beyond and read your finished writing out loud. More than duplicate words and typos, you’ll find areas where your sentence structure is lacking, clunky transitions that inhibit flow and other flaws you might not have caught. Through vocalizing your work, you’ll hear how it sounds — which is far different than how it reads.
I’ve practiced this technique almost daily since beginning work as a journalist. It’s saved me countless times from submitting work with errors I would’ve otherwise missed, and I’d recommend you implement this measure and others like it into your daily writing routine. It’s a small precaution well worth the extra time.
4. Maintain a Writing Journal
When it comes to writing, your routine has an enormous impact on your productivity. Whether you choose to write in the morning, afternoon or evening, you need to set aside time in your schedule to sit down and put pen to paper. Otherwise, you may start inventing excuses for lazy behavior.
You can stay on track with a journal. Allocating just a half-hour of your day to regular exercises will sharpen your skills and reinforce your commitment to becoming a better writer. To make progress, you need consistency, and journaling will provide a reliable framework moving forward.
If you need suggestions on what to write about, you could detail your hopes, dreams, aspirations and plans. Alternatively, you could write answers to thought-provoking questions and prompts for inspiration. As long as you’re using your journal, you’re honing your skills.
Practice, Practice, Practice
You wanted to know how to become a better writer, and there’s your answer. You’ll have to experiment and try new things to see what works for you, but as long as you keep practicing, you’ll find your rhythm.
Have you written something today?
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