No matter how many years you have under your belt as a writer, you can always find more ways to improve.
The best writers still continue to challenge themselves over the years, and many of them believe some of their best works are those they wrote many years down the road.
So if you’re feeling discouraged about your writing right now, remember that there’s always hope, as long as you commit yourself to continuous improvement!
Top 6 Ways to Improve Your Writing
Here are some of the best ways to improve your writing. We warn you, though: it won’t be an easy road, but with perseverance and the right strategies, you can make steady progress!
1. Read often.
If you want to improve your writing, be sure to set aside time to read. But don’t read just anything—instead, find authors whose style you admire and devote yourself to studying their work. This may include classic writers, whose work has been tested and proven over generations, or you may opt to read some of the bestselling authors of the present day.
Keep in mind that just because someone makes it to the bestselling list doesn’t automatically guarantee they write at top-notch levels. Lisa Kron, who wrote Story Genius, explains how Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James may not be the best writer in the technical sense, but she effectively captures readers’ emotions in the way she tells the story.
When you read, pay attention not just to the grammatical structure but also the way authors tell the story. Because, after all, becoming a writer is essentially about telling stories effectively.
2. Practice showing, not telling.
Writing a story is more than just telling facts or information. You are ushering your readers into a whole new experience. This is why all experts will tell you to “Show, don’t tell.” But how do you do this practically?
One way is this: When you write about any scene, consider how a certain situation will affect other things around it.
For example, instead of saying, “The sun was hot,” consider describing how it affects someone in the scene. Some ideas could be:
- Anna wiped the perspiration from her forehead. She had been slaving under the scorching sun for the last three hours, with not a cloud in sight, and now she was parched with thirst.
- Steve unbuttoned his shirt and sighed as he looked at his arms, now bright red from the scalding sun.
- The little boy ran to his mother, his hair bunched together in messy clumps, sweating like Niagara Falls under the blazing noonday sun.
Or, if you want to describe a bedroom, instead of just ticking off the items in it, consider how they affect one another:
- The early morning sunlight streamed in gaily right onto the bed with the puffy, floral comforters tucked neatly around its sides. Sarah was perched on her stool before the old mahogany dresser, peering at her face as she tried to paint her eyebrows.
Allow your reader to experience the scene through their senses; don’t limit yourself to describing what the eyes can see.When you enter a room, what sounds do you hear? What smells? Or what feelings are evoked?
- When I pushed the heavy, wooden door, its loud creaking made my skin crawl. While I waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark, I could hear the scampering sounds of tiny feet—rats, perhaps, running to their dens at this group of intruders? The room also smelled musty, and reeking of moth balls, like an old cupboard that hadn’t been opened in years.
- Anna galloped out onto the field like a mare that had been closed up too long. She breathed in the scent of her beloved roses, which still bloomed along the sides of the fence. Oh, how she had missed them! Overhead, she thrilled at the playful tittering of the pied fantails, as though they, too, had missed her.
3. Use strong verbs.
If you find yourself constantly describing how your characters do things, it may be time to learn a new skill: conjuring the most appropriate verb to fit what you mean to say. Not only will it help you cut down on unnecessary words, it will also give your writing more zest and punch.
For example, compare the first and second sentences:
- The man walked slowly down the street.
- The man trudged down the street.
- The mother shouted frantically at her toddler high up on the monkey bars.
- The mother shrieked at her toddler high up on the monkey bars.
If you find yourself at a loss for words, you may want to dedicate some time to expanding your vocabulary. You can check out this post on strong verbs, or Google a list of them.
Also, pay attention to how your favorite books use verbs, and copy them down into a notebook. Then, practice using the verbs in sentences to get familiar with them.
4. Get rid of weasel words.
“Weasel words” is a term used to refer to words that are vague and which can be misleading, whether intentionally or not. Unfortunately, they can not only cause misunderstandings, but they also weaken your writing.
Examples of these vague, unnecessary words are:
- a bit
5. Imitate the best writers.
In the book Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, the authors discovered how intentional practice affects improvement, and scrutinized how experts would do this in practical terms.
In the area of writing, they learned that Benjamin Franklin, known for numerous skills that include being a statesman and a writer, had a strategy for improving his writing: he would take some of his favorite articles from the best publication, and try to reproduce the writing from memory.
This agrees with the principles of Charlotte Mason, a British educator-reformer in the 1800s, who advocates the use of regular, intentional copywork for students to assimilate the writing styles of the greatest authors.
Of course, this does not mean copying them so as to be charged with plagiarism. Instead, the goal is to study how they use words (and how they don’t use them!), how they string together ideas, and how they transition from one thought to another, among others.
The more you practice how the best writers organize their thoughts, the more you will be able to write down your own thoughts in a similar way.
6. Get feedback on your work.
One of the best ways to grow in your writing is to get regular feedback for your work, and respond to the criticism. A new set of eyes, especially those who are more experienced than you, can do wonders for giving you a constructive critique.
You can get this by finding someone who can mentor you, or by joining writing groups. The famous C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia) and J.R.R. Tolkien (who wrote The Lord of the Rings) were part of a group called The Inklings, who met once a week where they, along with a few others, would spend time reading aloud their writings so others could comment on them.
And while you should get all the feedback you can on your work, you should also be your own critic! Ruthlessly revise your own work. Try to identify some of your weak points, and make a plan for how you can improve.
Take breaks in between your rounds of revisions (sometimes a few days or even weeks may be necessary to give you a fresh perspective).
Once you’ve addressed your critics’ feedback and done everything you can to make your work the best it can be, you can feel confident about moving on (and depending on your goals, moving on might involve seeking a publishing deal!).
Improving Your Writing
Improving your writing will not happen overnight. Instead, you will see incremental progress as you commit to making little changes regularly.
But press on! Even though you may not see the changes immediately, years down the road, when you look back, you will definitely see how your writing has evolved—and hopefully for the better!
Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:
- How Morning Pages Can Improve Your Writing (and Your Life)
- 46 Apps and Sites to Improve Your Writing Skills
- Weasel Words: Get Rid of These Words to Improve Your Writing
- What Are Adverbs? How and When to Use Them for Stronger Descriptions
Yen Cabag is the Blog Writer of TCK Publishing. She is also a homeschooling mom, family coach, and speaker for the Charlotte Mason method, an educational philosophy that places great emphasis on classic literature and the masterpieces in art and music. She has also written several books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her passion is to see the next generation of children become lovers of reading and learning in the midst of short attention spans.