15 Tested Practical Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

How to Improve Your Writing Skills

Whether you’re a beginner or have been at it for decades as I have, writing well takes work. No shortcut, no secret sauce will turn you into a bestselling author overnight. But there are steps to take if you want to become a better writer.

15 Tested Practical Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

Focus on These 15 Tips to Become a Better Writer

1. Write what inspires you.

What drives you?

What’s your passion? Your strength?

Write about that.

Your passion will carry you when the writing becomes difficult — and if you’re doing it right, it always does.

2. Establish a writing routine and stick to it.

Treat your writing schedule like it’s your job.

Show up and work.

There’ll always be something to do: writing, editing, researching… You’ll be astonished at what you can get done when you plant yourself in your chair for a specific period every day.

And let people know that aside from an emergency, you’re not available for that block of time.

Respect your writing time and others will too.

15 Tested Practical Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

3. Become an avid reader.

Writers are readers. Good writers are good readers. Great writers are great readers.

Want to write in a favorite genre? Read at least 200 titles in it first.

Read everything you can. You’ll soon learn what works and what doesn’t.

4. Start small.

Take time to build your craft and hone your skills on smaller projects before you try to write a book.

Journal. Write a newsletter. Start a blog. Write short stories. Submit articles to magazines, newspapers, or e-zines.

Take a night school or online course in journalism or creative writing.

Attend a writers conference.

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15 Tested Practical Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

5. Write.

Dreamers talk about writing. Writers write.

Keep writing even when you don’t feel like it.

Write every day. And don’t expect to be good at it at first. You were bad at walking until you learned to walk, bad at riding a bike until you learned how, bad at baking until you mastered it. Allow yourself room to grow.

6. See yourself as a writer.

Do you have a message to share with the world?

Don’t listen to those who tell you you’ll never be good enough — even if they’re just voices in your head. You’ll guarantee failure if you don’t muster the courage to try.

If you’re writing, regardless how well or how successful, call yourself a writer and stay at it.

15 Tested Practical Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

7. Become a ferocious self-editor.

Agents and editors can tell within the first two pages whether a manuscript is worthy of further consideration.

That sounds unfair, and maybe it is. But it’s a reality we writers need to face.

Learn to aggressively self-edit, and never submit writing you’re not entirely happy with. Learn to:

  • Show, don’t tell
  • Avoid throat-clearing
  • Resist the urge to explain
  • Avoid clichés
  • Avoid telling what’s not happening

15 Tested Practical Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

8. Join a writers critique group.

One fast way to get better at writing is through valuable input from other writers.

Find a writer’s critique group or mentor who’ll be brutally honest with you.

Be prepared to take an ego-bruising at first. But I promise you’ll become a better writer if you’re held accountable, not allowed to quit, and encouraged that you’re not alone on this journey.

One caveat: Be sure at least one person, preferably the leader, is experienced and understands the writing business. A group of only beginners risks the blind leading the blind.

9. Master the craft.

Every writer needs to regularly brush up on the basics and make it a major tool in your writing.

15 Tested Practical Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

10. Grab your reader from the get-go.

The opener to any piece of writing is the most important work you’ll do. Lose your reader here, and you’ve lost him for good.

Your goal with every word is to make your reader want to read the next and the next. Hook him and don’t let him go.

That doesn’t mean violence or chase scenes unless you’re writing a thriller. It means avoiding too much scene setting and description and getting to the good stuff the guts of the story as soon as possible.

11. Search and destroy passive voice.

I could tell you about subjects and objects and verbs and which is acting vs. being acted upon, avoiding adverbs, and all that. But unless you excelled at grammar and diagramming sentences, that’s going to sound like gibberish.

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15 Tested Practical Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

The easiest way to spot passive voice is to look for state-of-being verbs and often the word by.

Avoiding passive voice will set you apart from much of your competition and add power to your writing.

12. Use powerful verbs. Avoid adverbs.

Your sentence might be full of those adjectives and adverbs your teachers and loved ones so admired in your writing when you were a kid. But the sentence doesn’t work.

15 Tested Practical Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

13. Always think reader-first.

This is so fundamentally important that you should write it on a sticky note and put it on your monitor so you’re reminded of it every time you write.

Every writing decision should be run through this filter. Not you-first, not book-first, not editor-first, agent-first, or publisher-first. Certainly not your inner-circle-of critics-first.

Treat readers like you want to be treated and write what you would read. Never let up, never bore.

15 Tested Practical Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

14. See Writer’s Block for the myth it is.

What we call Writer’s Block is really just a cover for much deeper issues:

  • Fear
  • Laziness
  • Perfectionism

No other profession accommodates this malady, so we writers shouldn’t either.

Stand up to Writer’s Block like you would stand up to a bully. Allow your fear to humble you, and that humility to motivate you to do your best work. That’s what leads to success.

15. Listen to the experts.

There’s no greater inspiration than learning the good and the bad from experts willing to share from their wealth of experience.

15 Amazing Ways to Become a Better Writer [infographic]

15 Tested Practical Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

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