As much as it is knowledge and art, writing is a skill. When studying educational methods I was told over and over again the difference between those – and it’s dead simple: we practice our skills.
Throughout our lives we change are style, seek to improve as much as we can. Sometimes we don’t even know we’re doing it, but we do these exercises and our writing improves.
These are the tips to improve your writing whether you are a beginner or an established author – although, any of you established authors reading this probably already know it, but I hope you’ll enjoy it never the less.
This is a method I accidentally used since high school and it proved useful. Imitate authors you admire. When you read 100 Years of Solitude you get into the minds of the people of Macondo and after a while, you’ll get inspired to write exactly that. Of course, you can’t publish 100 Years of Solitude but you sure can write in Marquez’s voice for practice. It’s a delight to become so possessed by a certain style so you can’t resist but imitate it. It’s bound to help you find your own style. It also helps you focus on choosing your themes carefully.
When there’s a great author, a new generation of inspired authors will seek to imitate them and they’ll develop their own voices, become great authors, inspire new generations and it never ends.
4. Write no matter what
If you’ve been following me for some time I think it’s pretty obvious that I stand for writing daily, writing a lot and then writing some more.
It doesn’t matter if you’re uninspired when your scheduled (or unscheduled) time for writing comes. Just sit down and write anything. I’m giving you writing prompts that can at least serve as a quick inspiration to get you writing when you don’t have your own ideas – just practice. At this point, it doesn’t matter if it’s bad – if you like the idea, you’ll come back to it and rewrite. For now, just push your limits.
3. Never stop reading
I think this one needs no mentioning but still, to be sure, I’ll say it – read all the time. Read fiction, read news, read blog posts. It’s usually suggested you read fiction, but I would argue that you should expand that bubble.
Alistair Campbell said he’d gladly continue working but he won’t since there must be young people who use new technologies far better than him. So, the logical thing to do is to keep updated. And you’ll achieve that by reading fiction, new fiction, old fiction – read what you’ve never read before. But you should also read news and blog posts since there are amazing blogs posting stories, then there are blogs like this one – helping where help might be needed. You ever know, one seemingly unimportant sentence could spark a whole novel!
That way the news work too – if you’re writing thrillers, sad thing is, you’re most certainly sure to find ideas in real events.
2. Analyse other people’s works
This is a good one. When you like something you’ve read, analyse why you liked it – write down the way you think that piece worked for you. After all, you are writing things you would want to read.
The next book you read will be your assignment (and I don’t give assignments that often) – write a book report. Not a review, but the high-school book report! That way you’ll see what you should aim for and you’ll find a way to achieve the same effect.
1. Edit your works
This might be the most important thing you’ll ever do as a writer. It fine to analyse other people’s works, it’s great to keep reading and practice writing, it’s incredible when you mimic your favorite authors, but nothing will help you as much as editing your works.
Once you assemble all your ideas and write a piece, do exactly what you did in previous exercises, but apply it to your works.
You’ll in no time notice what mistakes you’ve made and how you can correct them the best way possible. Just keep doing it until it’s perfect. And remember, you are the first and most important judge of your own work. Ask yourself: ‘Who decides what is perfect?’
To improve your writing skills, check out these exercises I prepared for you.
Author: Mladen Reljanović
Mladen Reljanović is the founder and lead writer at Writer to Writers. He is the author of Oaktown stories, senior student of communication and a pianist.