7 Ways To Upgrade Your Writing Skills

By on December 30, 2015
7 Ways To Upgrade Your Writing Skills - Writer's Life.org

Hello, and welcome back to Writer's Life! As writers, sometimes we find ourselves struggling with our craft or asking ourselves how we can do better. Today, I present to you 7 ways to upgrade your writing skills, things you can consider implementing to help improve your writing.

First Drafts are for putting down ideas

One of the things that sometimes keeps writers in a rut with their writing skill is to be overly critical of the first draft of a project, especially as they are writing it. First drafts are for putting ideas down, and it’s okay if they are not polished and perfect yet. When starting it’s usually better to just let the ideas flow and get them out. Don’t worry too much about editing as you go. Finish the first draft, and then take out your red pen. You will find, most of the time, that it is much easier to re-shape the work from a large roughly hewn draft than to try to craft the perfect sentence every time out.

Research

Whatever you write, but in particular if you are writing non-fiction or blogs, doing your research on your topic will help you tune your skills. It will do this by exposing you to how people more familiar with the topic write about it, and it will give you a broader base of knowledge from which you can choose your angle on the project. It also means that when you write, you do so with more authority and a more powerful voice, armed with knowledge about your chosen topic.

Consider brushing up with formal classes

Taking courses online, or at your local community college or through outreach programs, can be a great way to improve your skills. These courses usually not only feature opportunities to revisit the various rules and strategies of writing, but almost always include feedback from someone—usually the instructor, but sometimes other students, writers, or even agents or editors depending on the course—who will show you concrete ways you can improve.

Structure first

Even if you’re a “pantser” (a person who writes by the seat of their pants) rather than a “planner” (who pre-plans most or all of their writing), you may find that you write more productively and more focused if you have at least a small amount of structure in place before putting pen to paper. I don’t mean to suggest that you should outline every single thing that happens unless that is already your style. What I mean is that if you have your blog topic or short story idea, take a few moments to jot down the arc of the story and keywords for each major event or concept. Then when you sit down to write, you may find that you stay on topic and flow from idea to idea more easily.

Edit slowly, and without mercy

When you have finished your first draft, set it aside for a bit and work on something else. Depending on what you are writing, it might only be a few minutes or hours, or a month or two for long projects like novels. Then, pick it back up and re-read the project, but do it deliberately and slowly. Many of us have a tendency to read our own writing very quickly—we know what it says, we wrote it!—but in doing that we may skip over typos or other errors, as well as miss more subtle mistakes. Take the time to read each line carefully. Also, consider reading the work from the end to the beginning. This will force you to look for mistakes in the sentences individually, and not focus so much on the big picture. Be merciless when editing. Shorten sentences, remove adverbs (most of the time), and, in general, tighten the words as much as you can, and maybe more than you can. 

Write more

The more you write, the better you’ll get. The more you write and edit, the better you’ll get. As you go through the exercise of crafting your work, and then revising it later, you’ll have more exposure to mistakes you make frequently and be able to write without making them in the first place. It will improve your inner ear, that sense you have for the words that go on paper as you are writing them down, and that will improve the quality of even first drafts over time.

Consider your audience

No matter what you write, considering the audience to whom you “speak” will help focus the words and style of your work. Even small writing projects like interoffice emails offer an opportunity to fine-tune the message you craft. By taking some time to imagine the needs and capabilities of your target audience, you may find it easier to get words down. When writing for six-year-olds, you would certainly choose shorter sentences with smaller words than you would when writing a blog topic on software engineering best practices. The format of the work also will help; a blog post with a wide audience will need to be simpler and less technical than a speculative science fiction short story.

In Conclusion

There are myriad ways to improve as a writer, and these 7 ways to upgrade your writing skills are but a small sampling of these techniques. I hope I’ve given you some things to think about and ways to get better in your chosen craft. As always, if you have comments or suggestions, leave them below, and happy writing!

About Bacil Donovan Warren

Bacil Donovan Warren is the author of Hooray for Pain!, and lives in Tucson, AZ.

4 Comments

  1. Pamela

    December 31, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Great advise…in my opinion. Thanks so much for sharing the expertise and experience that has proved positive to so many writers. Looking forward to getting back into writing. My writing has been on the back burner for years….time to move it to the front! Have a great day! Thanks a million!!
    Pamela

  2. aileen

    February 17, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    I am still stuck with developing the back ground of my character.
    He just gave me one hot chapter. And that is great and wonderful,
    but I don’t even know what’s his name should be?
    Where he works? In what he invest his time,interest?

    All I know about the girl is that she is still in college. Don’t know her name ether. I have such a nice opening but don’t know where to go with it.

    Hope you can give simple ideas.
    Should I be hitting a nice restaurant or a wild club for ideas?

    I thought if I develop personality first then it would be easier.
    It’s been a month already and they wouldn’t leave me alone.

  3. Antoinette

    October 16, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    These articles are so valuable to people like myself. I am raring to go. To write my heart and fingers out. I want to share my thoughts but there is always a doubt. I will try these seven ideas and try to be a consistant writer. I hope one day, I will be a worthy writer.

    Thanks again for the encouraging help.

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