For all you aspiring authors, journalists, poets and everyone else, here are my top 5 favourite tips for becoming a better writer.
How can you expect to be any good at something if you don’t understand the craft? You need to be able to understand what other people are doing right and wrong. You need to expand your vocabulary. You need something to inspire you.
Ok, you don’t actually need these things, but they can be a big help!
And don’t just feel like you have to stick to the big, fancy authors. Nabakov and Tolstoy can only teach you so much. Sometimes you have to read 50 Shades and Twilight, even if it’s only to get an understanding of why you might not want to write like that. Read everything and understand the different styles and tones; read crime, read romance, read non-fiction, read newspapers, read blogs, read magazines, even read the back of your packet of biscuits.
2. Make it a Habit
Get into the habit of writing. Make it something you do every day or every week. Of course, it should be something you enjoy, but even when you’re going through a rough patch (everyone gets writer’s block!), don’t be afraid to make yourself sit down during your self-scheduled time and write when you said you would, even if it’s just to get through this horrible part.
3. Be Proud of Yourself
Writing is hard so give yourself a break. You wrote another page? Another sentence? Another word? You’re AWESOME! Go you!
Sometimes the hardest part is starting and putting any words down in the first place, so when you do, don’t forget to give yourself a little pat on the back, treat yourself to another biscuit, have a cup of tea, give yourself a sticker – whatever it takes to acknowledge the fact that you’re making progress and you’re doing great!
4. Read it Outloud
This is my favourite bit of advice. I do something similar with anything I create. I feel a bit of distance from your work can really help you see it. When I take a photo, I step back to the other side of the room and look at it from a distance. When I do a painting, I hold it up to the mirror and look at it from a different angle. And when I write anything, whether it’s a blog post, an essay for uni or a short story, I read it out loud to myself.
By reading it aloud you make it so much more real than just a bundle of words on a page. It’s a bit like hearing it for the first time; you hear it as your reader will. You start to notice the rhythms of the text, any rhymes (if it’s poetry), you noticed when a word or phrase just isn’t working and you start to pick up on little flaws – Is that really something this character would say? Does that metaphor actually sound a little bit silly?
5. Edit. Edit. Edit.
So you’ve put down all these words on the page and you’re feeling incredible. Thousands and thousands of words all written by you! That’s a lot of biscuits you’ve given yourself along the way, you’re shaking from caffeine and you can barely see your t-shirt for stickers. You’ve done this, so why would you want to go and start deleting bits of it?
To make it the best it can be.
You’ve done all this work, you’ve put so much time into it, why not make it even more awesome? Why settle for something pretty good, when you could make it AMAZING?
Editing over and over will improve your work so much! Get someone you trust to read your work and be as critical as possible. Learn to identify your mistakes and how to correct them. Don’t be afraid to delete. Get rid of everything that isn’t essential and just keep the best of the best!