Are you looking for ways to improve your writing, but aren’t sure how to get started? Do you struggle to get the words out and onto the page when it’s time to write down all of the great ideas that you have?
If you would like to take your writing skills to the next level, then you’re in the right place. Whether you’d like to improve the quality of your writing, or you are looking for ways to ease into the process of writing, here are a few reliable strategies that can help you on your journey toward becoming the writer you always knew you could be.
Strategies to improve your writing process
Getting your thoughts on the page doesn’t have to be a challenge every time you sit down to write. Here are some strategies to help prevent or overcome writer’s block.
1. Write about what you love
One way to make the process of writing easier for yourself is to write about topics that excite you. You don’t necessarily have to be writing an academic essay in order to be a good writer. Academic writing is one of many writing styles, and good writing comes in many forms.
Write what you know. If you like to re-imagine the storyline in popular tv shows, movies, or books, then try writing fanfiction. You could write an article to be published online, keep your very own blog, or write short stories. If you enjoy making stories, then practice creative writing. If you are passionate about business and entrepreneurship, practice business writing. Keeping a journal can also help.
Start where you can with the type of writing that feels easiest for you and speaks to you the most. The idea is that the way to improve your skills is by getting started with the type of writing that comes the most naturally to you. if you are excited about your topic, it will show in your writing and make it more engaging to read.
2. Cultivate a daily writing habit
Research in behavioral science tells us that the best way to start a habit is to start small and be consistent. Get started by writing for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes each day.
If you tell yourself that you need to write for at least an hour every day, that will make it harder and therefore less likely that the new habit will stick long term. An hour is a long time for when you are just starting to establish a habit. If you make the habit easier to accomplish and something that you look forward to doing, then you are much more likely to stick with it day after day. Also, remember to celebrate each small victory on your journey to realizing your goal!
If you are looking for a resource to support the new habit of writing every day, The Artist’s Way is a great resource that can help you get started. “The Fabulous App,” (available for mobile devices) is another great resource supported by behavioral science, designed to help you develop new habits that will stick.
3. Read more books by great authors
Reading literature by a wide range of great writers will provide you with examples of different writing styles and can also help you to expand your vocabulary. Through this process, you can find a writing style that appeals to you. Honing your unique writing voice allows your personality to shine through your work.
4. Study your favorite writers
Think about your favorite book. Study it! What makes this piece so compelling? Consider the writing style. What techniques does the author use so the words reach out from the page to grab their reader’s attention? How did the author develop the characters to make them seem layered and realistic? If you study compelling writing, you can apply what you’ve learned to improve the quality of your writing as well.
5. Exercise or spend some time outdoors
Stress and anxiety can cloud your thinking and prevent you from producing your best work. Taking a walk or spending time outdoors can release endorphins which help to clear your mind. This can increase your confidence and give you a sense of hope, giving you the boost you need to reset before you start writing again.
6. Research your topic before you start writing
Before you start writing, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the content you’ll be discussing in your piece. Understanding your topic well enough to explain it to someone in simple terms indicates that you are in a good position to start capturing your thoughts on paper.
7. Consider your target audience
Make sure your writing meets the needs of the people you are writing for. Who is your target audience? What is your reader looking for? Keep in mind that your writing style will be different if you are in an academic setting, creating a blog post, or writing for a business client.
8. Remember you are your first audience member
Are you writing something that you would enjoy reading? If you find your work engaging, then chances are that there will be people in your target audience who will find it compelling as well. Don’t forget to write a piece that you can be proud of.
9. Try a “stream of consciousness” writing exercise
Get all the great thoughts and ideas that are in your brain out onto the page. Don’t edit. Don’t filter anything out or worry that your writing sucks. Simply write whatever words come to mind, exactly as they appear. You can always go back to edit and fine tune your language, word choice, and formatting later. The key here is to get out of your head and start writing in order to get to a place where you have something to edit. Stream of consciousness is an antidote for writer’s block and can turn a blank page into a canvas.
Writing an outline is a reliable strategy for organizing your thoughts and your writing. You can write an outline after you’ve researched your topic, brainstormed your ideas, or completed a stream-of-consciousness writing exercise. When you have a sense of the direction for your piece, outline your ideas to provide structure to the process that follows.
You’ll want to take note of the big ideas that will be guiding your work, as well as the supporting concepts. Consider which topics will be guiding each section and in what order the sections should appear. Once you’ve gotten the skeleton of the piece outlined, it is time to get more detailed with a few notes about what you’ll be discussing within each section.
Outlines can vary in level of detail. You can have a bare-bones outline to provide yourself with some guidance as you get started. On the other hand, if you have a lot to say or a complex topic to write about, your outline can be more detailed.
Strategies to improve the quality of your writing
11. Solidify your foundation.
An important part of being a strong writer is knowing how to ensure that your writing follows spelling and grammar rules. Once you know the rules, then you can choose when and how to bend or break them. You can use a dictionary or the automatic spell-check feature embedded into most typing apps to make sure that your spelling is on point.
If you don’t feel confident about your writing grammar, you can brush up on the basics through online learning platforms. There are many free courses available through Coursera, SkillShare, Teachable, Udemy, and EdX. This way you can strengthen your understanding of the fundamental rules of writing without breaking the bank.
12. Increase your vocabulary
Having a plethora of words to choose from can significantly enhance the quality of your writing by allowing you to choose the word that best captures the meaning you want to convey. An added benefit of reading voraciously is that you will often encounter words that you don’t know. Instead of glossing over them, look up what these new words mean in order to enrich your vocabulary. You can also keep a thesaurus nearby while you write in order to give yourself options to choose from and make your language more colorful.
13. Use the active voice
Passive Voice Ex.1: The sculpture was accidentally broken by the artist.
Passive Voice Ex. 2: The sculpture was broken accidentally.
Active Voice: The artist accidentally broke the sculpture.
Above are three sentences that convey the same meaning, but two are in the active voice while the other is passive. The active voice employs strong and direct language in which there is a subject that performs an action (verb) on an object. The passive voice is structured such that an object was acted upon (past participle of a verb) by the subject (as in Ex. 1 above).
It is common to discourage writers from using the passive voice. It can be seen as a weak or evasive use of language, and it makes your work harder to read. However, there are a few choice instances in which it can be useful in order to emphasize the action that took place over the subject who completed the action. It is also employed when the subject is unknown, as in the second example above.
14. Use concise language
It is a good idea to choose words that are direct and to the point when writing. Descriptive language can be a good thing. However, overly flowery word choice can get in the way and obfuscate your meaning. Try to avoid using too many words when you can say the same thing in a more efficient way. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a well-placed adjective or an apt metaphor and being roundabout and convoluted with your language.
15. Edit your rough drafts
Editing is the process of reading over your writing and making changes to the structure of the piece. The goal is to improve the flow of the language and ideas throughout various sections. You want to ensure that your writing is direct and to the point by avoiding run-on sentences, verbose language, and long paragraphs. Concise writing is more compelling and easier to read.
Be sure to wait a while after you complete the first draft to begin editing. You’ll want to leave some time between the writing stage and the editing stage to clear your mind and come back with fresh eyes. This will help you to edit your piece more effectively.
16. Proofread your writing
Proofreading is different from editing. Editing is an earlier step for making structural changes to a rough draft. Proofreading is the process of fine-tuning your writing to turn it into a polished final draft. This is when you correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, typos, and so on.
After you have personally proofread your own writing once or twice, it is a good idea to ask a friend or someone you trust to proofread your writing as well. Having a second pair of eyes look over what you wrote can help to catch any missed errors.
Good writing is a skill (like any other) that can be learned and practiced. Hopefully, with these strategies in your toolbox, you will feel equipped with the tools you need to hone your craft and blossom into a seasoned writer. Happy writing!