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.
Your writing skills: you can always become a better writer
Here’s what I love about writing: you can always get better, and with enough practice, you WILL get better, it’s inevitable. I’m fond of saying that no word you write is ever wasted. So, let’s look at 17 ways you can improve your writing skills in 2017.
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 1999, 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.
15. Develop your audience/ readers on social media
I know that many writers are still hesitant about social media. You either avoid social media, because talking about kittens and recipes cuts into your writing time. Alternatively, you promote on social media extensively, but aren’t sure how to balance your posts between promotional posts, and “social” posts.
Fact: you can’t be everywhere. That said, you do need to build your audience, and that starts with discovering where your audience hangs out.
Choose a social network, and give it three months.
16. Do it yourself as a self-publisher — in 2017, it makes more sense
I spent too many years being “traditionally published” to have the patience to ever go through it again. That said, if you’re a self-publishing author, it’s VERY worth it to get at least one book traditionally published by a major publisher
Here’s why: it removes all the mystique from book publishing. You’ll understand that you need to do (almost) everything yourself anyway, so why not self-publish?
17. Make the most of your blog’s traffic
You’ve got a blog. You want MORE traffic.
While that’s a laudable aim getting “more traffic” is less essential than doing more with the traffic you already have.
You need a mailing list, and a way to funnel people (“traffic”) onto that list.
It’s been said that before someone buys from you, he needs to see your name at least seven times. I think it’s more times than that, but seven is a useful theory.
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Updated: January 1, 2018