If you’re a writer, or want to be one, chances are that you are looking for ways to enhance and improve your writing skills. The market is saturated with writers right now, so how do you hone your abilities and stand out in the crowd? Here are a few tried-and-true tips and tricks for you to try.
One of the best ways to work on your writing skills is to read what others have written. Read best-selling novels. Read the classics. Read works in your genre. Constant exposure to good writing will help you emulate what those authors are doing right.
Just like any other skill, writing requires practice, practice, and more practice. If you want to excel at writing, you have to work at it. Try writing every day for a set amount of time. You can free-write or pick a project to work on.
One mistake novice writers tend to make is to overly complicate their sentences or to break out the biggest words they know. Your reader shouldn’t need a dictionary to figure out what you’re trying to say. Be clear; be concise. Don’t use overly large words when a simpler one will do. Watch out for run-on sentences and overuse of clauses and prepositional phrases.
4. Use a Thesaurus
While you don’t want to show off your vocabulary with words no one knows, you do want to provide a good variety in your writing. Keep a thesaurus handy, and expand your word choices.
5. Read Out Loud
Words look different on the page than they sound out loud. Try reading your work and listening to how it sounds. Is it stiff? Does it flow? You’ll immediately pinpoint areas of your writing that you need to work on.
6. Build Structure
Try creating an outline for your writing. Lay out the exact flow of your argument or narrative prior to actually writing your sentences. Sometimes boxing in your thoughts and ideas will actually help you pinpoint what you’re trying to say.
7. Work on Your Sentences
Just as structure is important to your whole piece, so is it critical to your individual sentences. Worry less about exact grammar or style—such as ending a sentence in a preposition or where to place a comma. Instead, focus on properly constructed sentences that aren’t too complex. Remember—keep it simple.
You are your own harshest critic, so use that to your advantage. Edit your work. When you’re done, edit again. Look for extraneous phrases or details. Watch out for repetitious concepts or words. Is something redundant? And if you’re still not sure, have someone else edit your work for you with a fresh set of eyes.