Although a lot of people dream about becoming professional writers, sitting down and putting words on the page is a whole different story. Usually once people finish school, they stop writing altogether. Years later, they decide to get into writing but quickly find out their skills are rusty or they don’t know where to begin.
It can be intimidating to start writing, but thankfully, once you have a good plan of action you can get started. And once you’ve been writing for a long time, it can be hard to stay focused on keeping your skills up to par. Here’s how to improve your writing skills, for beginners and old-timers alike.
Forget what school taught you
Now, we’re not saying to abandon all the grammar rules and throw caution to the wind, but you’re going to want to approach writing differently than you did in school. One of the hardest things to undo is needing to write with a professional tone and instead learn how to write personally.
In school, most of us were given worse grades if we used the word “I” or wrote about ourselves in any way. With blogging and other forms of online writing, writing about yourself is an essential part of building an audience.
Learn the basic writing formats
Depending on what type of writing you want to get into, there are usually some types of rules and formatting.
Whether you want to get into blogging, screenplay writing, copywriting, or something else, they all have their own basics. Get the essential books you need, learn from a few resources, and start to write your first drafts.
If you’re just writing for the sake of writing, forget all the rules and just start simply putting pen to paper. Try writing about your day or memories you have. Anything just to get the creative juices flowing and get into a routine.
Read various types of writing
While it’s important to read the type of writings you want to create, you should expand your reading list when you can. Read some short stories, biographies, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and anything else you can get your hands on. You’ll find that as you read more types of writing, your own style improves.
One great thing to do is to highlight passages of writing or formatting you like. This is how you’ll begin to form your own style and flow. Some writers love to keep a log of their favorite quotes or other inspiration inside of something like a Google Doc or a notebook.
If you create a whole file of writing you love, it can help you when you’re stuck and not sure how to formulate your writing.
Try various types of writing
Once you have a good grasp on your style, don’t be afraid to shake things up. Just because you decide to become a blogger, that doesn’t mean you can’t dabble in some poetry as well.
As you try more types of writing, you might be shocked to find which ones you enjoy more. Plus, building up skills transfers to all of your writing. For example, things you learn as you write poetry can transfer over to your blogs and make them more unique.
Accept that the journey takes time
One of the most common pitfalls amongst writers is to compare their current skills to extremely polished writers.
Unless for some reason this motivates you, this can be a huge deterrent. Most books have been through rounds of editing and are written by people who have been doing it for years and years. If you’re still learning, you might compare your writing to theirs and think that you’ll never be able to make it as a writer.
Learning to write is just like any other skill in that it takes time and lots of practice to get down. Keep in mind that even the best writers in the world started by creating terrible first drafts. The most important thing above all is simply starting.
Learn from writers who inspire you
There is so much to be learned from writers who have succeeded in the types of writing you want to get into. Watch their interviews, read their books, read interviews they’ve done. All of this will help you figure out some shortcuts and tactics you can use in your daily writing habits and throughout your writing career.
If possible, try to take their classes if they offer them. There are few things that beat learning from the people who inspire you the most.
Find a way to stay accountable
Once you decide to start writing, you need to find a way to practice consistently. Whether that means joining writing groups, a writing course, or finding someone to hold you accountable, you need to get in the habit.
Once you become consistent, this is how you start to truly build a writing career. If you learn from some of the greatest writers such as Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway, you’ll quickly see that most of their careers have been built around solid writing habits. Sure, they are also incredibly talented, but there’s no doubt that being consistent helped.
Sure, there are some writers here and there who have made their career in short bursts of intense effort, but for the most part, it’s the day in and day out putting pen to paper.
Learn how to fight against writers block
Lots of writers have issues when it comes to putting words onto a blank page. There are a million strategies out there to combat against it, but here are just some ideas to get started when you’re stuck:
- Talk about what you want to write out loud
- Use an outline to your advantage
- Start in the middle of your writing and come back to the beginning (if you’re stuck at the beginning)
- Do something outside of your regular routine to shake it up
- Try out the famous “Morning Pages” by Julie Cameron to simply practice free-flow writing
Know that even with the best writing habits, you’ll still encounter writer’s block and mental resistance from time to time. There’s no need to panic, just find what strategies work for you to get around it.
Sign up for writing classes
If you really want to improve your writing skills, signing up for a new class can be the spark you might need. Thanks to the internet, you can take classes from all over the world to try out different writing styles and connect with other writers.
Some classes are more intense than others, so depending on your schedule some might work better than others.
There’s so much you can learn from other writers and new techniques you haven’t tried before. Plus, the best part of a class is that there’s usually a set schedule which will hold you accountable and keep you on a routine.
Learn the power of editing
Once you learn how to write on a consistent basis, you’ll need to learn how to edit. Editing is a completely different skill set and it can be hard to edit your own writing.
It’s hard to not treat your writing as this precious thing that’s hard to edit. This is also why most authors end up hiring editors down the line to fine-tune their writing.
Just know that editing doesn’t come naturally to every writer, so continue to be patient with yourself as you learn. One tip that writers love to use is to read their sentences out loud to see what sounds weird or could be improved.
A final word: Never stop learning about how to improve your writing skills.