Want to improve your writing skills? We all do. Someone once said that being a writer was like always having homework. There’s always something new to learn, and something new to write.
Way back in December 2011, I wrote this post on 12 easy ways to improve your writing skills. The final countdown to 2014 has begun, so I’ve brought this post back, with two additional ways.
Here we go…
1. Write Every Day, Everywhere.
Writers write. If you write every day, you’re a writer, even if you’ve never sold a word.
Tip: you’ll need to force yourself to write daily, if you’re new to writing. It’s stressful at first. Here’s the big benefit of all that angst: writing will become a habit. After a time, writing is just something you do — you won’t be able to stop.
Once you have the writing habit, everything becomes much easier.
2. Collect Words, but Don’t Feel You Need to Use Them.
Most writers love playing with words, and collecting words. Look up words you don’t know. Look up words you think you know, too.
However, remember that words aren’t the point. Communication’s the point.
3. Keep a Journal or Three.
Some writers journal, others don’t. I journal. Here’s why: writing is discovery. It’s also therapeutic. You can exercise your pet neuroses without annoying people. Over time, you’ll become less neurotic. This is a good thing.
Your writing journal also helps you to incubate ideas for future writing — you’ll never run out of ideas.
4. Study Writing Every Day.
Make time to study every day. Study anything and everything. The more you know, the more your writing will improve.
You should also study writing. There’s always more to learn.
5. Use Outlines — They’re Your “Zero” Draft.
Get into the habit of outlining. Outlines save time and energy. They also stop procrastination.
However, your outlines don’t need to be the kind of outline you learned in school. Most of my outlines are simple notes to myself about the project, or simple lists, or mind maps.
6. Blog: You’ll Learn to Keep Commitments to Readers (and to Yourself.)
Blogging will do more for you as a writer than anything else. They’re writing practice, and they teach you commitment.
Way back in 2000, when I started blogging, I had no idea why I wanted to do it. I just thought that blogging would help my writing.
Blogging’s helped me; it will help you.
7. Thank Your Clients: They Pay You to Practice Your Writing.
If you’re a new writer, and clients make you nervous, change your attitude. Think of writing for clients this way: they’re helping you to practice your writing — and you’re getting paid for it too. Your clients enable you to earn while you learn. Each and every client you have will teach you something.
8. Create Your Own Writing Exercises, and Do Them.
Writing should be fun for you. Stop taking it so seriously. Look on ALL the writing you do as fun.
Create your own writing exercises. Date them. You’ll see your writing improve every day.
9. Read, Every Day.
Writers are readers. Read what YOU enjoy reading. I love Victorian novels, mystery novels, and romance novels. I read whatever I’m in the mood to read.
If something you read affects you, dissect it to see how the writer did it.
10. Take Notes on What You Read.
Keep a notebook for your reading notes, or keep your notes on index cards. Reread your notes regularly, and implement any techniques you’ve managed to discern.
11. Discover and Implement Your 3 “NOs.”
Every writer should have three NOs — three things you will never, ever do as a writer.
Over time, you’ll discover what your three NOs are. Be aware of them. You don’t need to share them with others.
12. Laugh Every Day.
Writing can be stressful. Take time to laugh, every day.
13. List, List, List. (Still the easiest way to write, AND to keep yourself on track.)
Lists save your brain, and your sanity. In this article on productivity, I said:
Get the list habit.
Lists are essential to help you to manage your overloaded information. You already have a To Do list. However, lists come in many different forms. Examples include: checklists, planning lists, password lists, reading lists, reference lists, back-burner lists, and goal lists. All your information can be added a list, or to several lists.
I keep all my lists in Evernote, so that I can access them everywhere I go.
14. Reach Out. Reach High.
I always say: it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.
Social media makes it easy to reach out to people, so reach out. Comment on blogs. “Like” on Facebook and Google+. Retweet. Most importantly of all, decide with whom you want to work, and contact those people.
Reach high. If you want to be be published by traditional publishers, get a literary agent. I’m all-in with self-publishing, but your mileage may vary. Contact companies with which you want to work. Pick up the phone, or contact their content manager via social media.
2014 will be here within hours. It’s a brand new year. There have never been as many opportunities for writers as there are today. Commit to making 2014 your best writing year ever. Improving your writing skills will make that happen.
This article was updated on July 8, 2014.