26 June 2024

#WritersLife: How to Improve Your Writing Skills

Crafting exceptional writing, whether it's a captivating novel, an engaging magazine article, or a thought-provoking blog post, requires dedication to the art. Mastery isn't achieved overnight, and continuous development is essential. Each session at your writing desk brings with it incremental progress. The thrill of acquiring new skills, uncovering innovative techniques, and enhancing the allure of your writing adds to the joy of the ongoing learning process for dedicated writers. There's always room for improvement. Every time you sit down at your desk to work on your newest writing project, things get a little easier. And isn't it exciting to learn new skills, tricks, and techniques that can make your writing more compelling? Diligent writers find joy in this continuous learning process.

Read - a Lot!

Sitting on the terrace and losing yourself in the pages of a good book is a wonderful feeling. But as a writer, you should also take the time and look deeper. Read as much as you can, as often as you can to learn what other authors do and how they do it.  It's one of the easiest ways to improve your writing. 

The more you read, the more you assimilate the finer points of writing, especially when it comes to style, grammar, punctuation, and structure. How does the author lead the reader and share information? Pick books similar to your own, in subject matter, genre, or structure. What makes them work? When I’m stuck on a writing project, reading for a little while is often enough to get my creative juices flowing again.

Attend a Workshop

Whether you attend a workshop in person or a virtual one, I can honestly say that nothing has improved my writing skills more. Sometimes it's just hard to see what's right in front of you. If you don’t know what isn’t working in your writing, receiving feedback from a qualified instructor and other workshop attendees can be an eye-opener.

Mind the Beginning and the End

The beginning and end of your writings are frequently what readers remember most. So, it's prudent not to treat your introduction or opening scene like an afterthought. First impressions count, and this is where your readers from their first impression of your writing and the readers’ expectations are established. And the ending is just as critical since it’s your book’s lasting impact.

Learn the Difference Between Active and Passive Voice

Active and passive voices are grammatical forms. In the active voice, the subject of the sentence is doing the action. In the passive voice, the object of the action becomes the subject of the sentence. The passive voice is not wrong. It's often used in scientific writing to remain objective. And when you want to sound indirect or cautious, then this is definitely the way to go.

However, the excessive use of the passive voice can become tiresome to read. It can also complicate your sentences unnecessarily, add extraneous words, and turn your writing into something that's definitely not reader-friendly. In most cases, it's prudent to use the active voice to make your book/article/post more engaging and precise.

Be Concise

Getting your point across in as few words as possible is another crucial factor when improving your writing. Every word you put down should work hard to eliminate unnecessary ones and replace weak or ambiguous words with stronger alternatives. While sometimes, like in writing historical fiction, it can be considered appropriate to use archaic or more elaborate phrasing, more often than not, it just becomes tedious to read after a while. To readers, those extra words are like obstacles. They serve no purpose, nor do they add meaning, and should be eliminated or substituted whenever possible.

Keep Readers’ Expectations in Mind

Writing is about connecting with your readers. This applies to all genres and manner of writing, from memoirs to fiction, self-help and how-to books. Even when you’re writing your memoirs or autobiography, it’s not just about you. If you want people to read and gain something from your authorship, then write with your readers in mind. 

For every word you put on the page, you have to consider where it takes your reader and how it might sound. How do your readers need and want to hear what you have to say? Is your tone appropriate? What will strike their favorite chords? What kind of stories do they like? Successful writing makes a promise to the reader and then satisfies expectations. Even if you aren’t the world’s most excellent writer, writing with your reader in mind will significantly improve your work's effectiveness and power.

Insert Tension

Do all books need tension? If you want to hook your reader, then absolutely - although some genres need it more than others. Obviously, plot-based thrillers introduce it from the start, often in the form of impending disaster, or any other situational crises that mean to grab the reader's attention. These books are difficult to put down because you just have to find out what happens next. 

But what about other types of books, like character-driven works, memoirs, or how-to guides, self-help or business books? They can benefit from tension as well. Character-driven stories, like a memoir, for instance, often derive it from internal conflict, uncertainty, or unanswered questions. Even self-help books or how-to guides can benefit from tension. In many cases, it is caused by a problem that the author solves for the reader.  

Employ Vivid Details

Nothing brings writing to life like descriptive details as it enables readers to form images in their minds. They create an effect similar to a close-up in a movie. Just make sure you find a balance between showing and telling. While both have their place, as a writer, we should tend towards showing the reader rather than just telling a story. It's a skill many writers struggle to execute. So, don't feel bad if, at first, you don't succeed. It's one of the reasons why we edit - a boatload!

As I said earlier: There's always room for improvement. No writer ever gets to the point where there's no further need to improve upon the craft. Even if you’re a good writer with years of experience under your belt, you should always look for ways to improve your writing. It's like adding tools to your toolbox - and one can never have too many tools!  

What are some some of the tools you employ to improve your writing skills?

Piper is the award-winning author of The Country Girl Empress series. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookMedium, and Goodreads.
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