Today’s post is taking a break from reading and focusing on writing. If you follow along with me on social media you may know that I have challenged myself to write every day for at least a month.
This is in an effort to finally make some decent headway on the novel I’ve been chipping away at for the last year and a bit. So far, it’s been a challenging, exhausting but ultimately rewarding experience!
I’m deeper into my novel than I ever have been before which is both exciting and terrifying. One side benefit that has resulted from this daily habit, and blogging regularly, is that words seem to be coming easier to me.
Now, I’m not saying I’m an amazing writer, (I’ve got a very long way before that happens) but I have identified an improvement in my craft.
Writing doesn’t come easily to everyone. Today I thought I’d share some tips to help you improve your writing. They’ve worked well for me, and I hope they do for you too! Whether it’s a novel you’re working on, a report, or emails you send to colleagues, hopefully you find a tip from today useful!
1. Don’t send or publish right away
I‘m a firm believer in reading over your writing. You’ve probably heard that tip a lot. Reading over your writing allows you to correct any mistakes you may have made.
Have you considered giving your writing a second read over once you’ve had a break from it? Many publishing platforms such as email or WordPress allow you to make a draft of your writing that you can return to at a later time.
Why do this? By giving yourself a break from your writing and then returning to it at a later time you will see items for correction you may have missed.
I know if I’m in the haze of writing, I will read what I intended to write as opposed to what I actually wrote.
It’s not until I read with fresh eyes, so to speak, that I pick up on a few of the more subtle issues with my writing.
Even a 10 minute break away from your writing will freshen your perspective and allow you to enter a better mindset for editing.
In particular, this tip is vital when it comes to emails for another purpose beyond picking up on grammatical and sentence errors. If you’ve ever had to reply to an unpleasant email you may know where I’m going with this…
Don’t send emails when you’re angry! You may end up making the situation worse, or not expressing yourself clearly. Have you ever sent a message or email in anger, hit send, then had that nagging doubt or guilt come knocking? This tip is for you.
Write what you want to say in your anger, save it as a draft then come back to send it when you’ve cooled off.
In most cases, you’ll likely want to temper down what you’ve said and will communicate your thoughts in a clearer and more appropriate manner.
2. Decide your Main Goal for your Writing
In all writing, whether novel writing, email or reports clear direction is vital. Otherwise your readers will become lost, and confused as they read.
Say you’re righting an essay on The French Revolution and the question is “How did the French perception of Marie Antoinette impact the French Revolution?” You conduct some research and find a whole host of interesting facts out about Marie Antoinette including a range of bawdy comics. Do you put all of this information into your essay? No! There will be parts of your research that does not make it into the essay.
It can be difficult at times to sift through the amount of information we have available at our fingertips. However, our goal should not be to communicate everything we know on a subject but rather the most essential points we want our audience to understand.
Forming an outline of what you want to achieve through your writing is a helpful way to figure out what you want to express and how you will achieve it.
What this outline looks like can vary, perhaps jotting down a few goals for what you want an audience to learn from your essay. Or what you want your audience to feel from this particular novel chapter you’re writing. This can be a helpful way to prevent you going on tangents with your writing.
3. Edit your work
If you want your writing to improve it is essential you edit it. Read over it and look for incorrect spelling, grammatical errors and sentence structure that isn’t working well.
For that extra polish you may like to run your work through a specially designed grammer program such as Grammerly or Hemingway.
I am currently in the process of exploring which program I prefer to use. I have heard great things about Hemingway, as it includes features that point out repetitive phrases and cliches within your writing.
Doing this will ensure a more readable piece of work that will engage audiences. Spellcheck features in word processing programs only go so far and should not replace a manual edit.
You may like to show your writing to a friend or family member to get their feedback on your work. It can be helpful to have another person’s perspective and suggestions for improvement.
Of course, you can hire a professional editor to look over your writing. I would recommend this especially if you are working towards publishing a book. Editors are a wonderful resource of highly skilled people who should not be undervalued.
It should go without saying, but if you’re including facts within your writing make sure they’re trustworthy. Using reliable sources to inform your writing means that your audience can trust you and what you have to say.
If using Wikipedia for research, only use it as a starting point. Never as your ultimate source for information. Wikipedia can be altered by anyone and is therefore an unreliable source that should be checked for accuracy before facts from that website are spread as if they are truth.
Likewise, don’t trust every research paper or study. Not all studies are created equally and so results should be evaluated carefully before being incorporated into your work.
Did the study use a large enough sample size? Has the study been able to be replicated?
I regularly see blog posts that use poor research to backup the point of their posts. It’s irresponsible in my opinion to spread inaccurate information to audiences. As a writer you need to be sure that the material you use to back up your position is accurate. Using incorrect information in your writing will cause your readers to doubt if they can trust your writing.
5. Practice Writing
The only way to truly improve in any skill is to practice. Sorry, I know I personally wish there was a button I could push that instantly honed my writing ability. Alas, it’s not to be.
In the mean time, if you want to improve your writing, write! Whether it’s blogging, journalling or writing a novel if you want to get good at writing, go and write.
I personally am still working at improving my writing. It’s something I’ll continue to work at. Even when I’ve got a snuffly nose and I don’t really feel like it. At the end of the day, if I don’t do something I want to do, I’m only letting myself down.
I want to one day publish a book, but for that one day to happen, I have to write today.
Thanks for reading this post. I hope today gave you some useful tips for improving your writing! If you have any writing tips, please share them in the comments below.
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I can be found @stephhuddlestonwriting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Till next week,