Eight Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

It’s been said that more people talk about writing than actually write. Writing involves more than putting finger to keyboard or pen to paper. Consider these eight steps to becoming a better writer.

  1. Set aside 30 minutes a day that’s dedicated to writing. When I taught my “Writing for Fun and Profit” series courses at the local colleges, in one of the courses I challenged students to find 30 minutes a day to write. With all the suggestions made, the best one that works consistently is to schedule the time and honor your commitment to yourself to do something to become a better writer in those 30 minutes.
  2. Develop your writing voice by listening to yourself talk. You may even try talking aloud to yourself as you sit at your computer or with your spiral notebook.
  3. Write to a formula or plan. Periodicals like numbers (did the number in the title of this blog post catch your attention?). Nonfiction books use structure (preface, introduction, a number of chapters, about the author, etc.). Genre fiction also uses structure (romance–including all the sub-genres, mystery–including all the sub=genres, etc.).
  4. Write questions you think your reader wants answers to. Too often authors know their topics so well that they forget their readers don’t. Your job is to answer all the questions your reader may have because your reader can’t ask you directly while reading.
  5. Find an editor. You cannot edit your own stuff because you already know what you mean and you’ll see that meaning in your writing–even if it isn’t there.
  6. Join a writers group. I belonged to one for years that met every Friday afternoon at 1:oo pm. We were a group of four and to keep us on task, we required everyone bring something to read to the group. If a person didn’t bring something to read, he/she had to bring treats (food) for everyone. It’s amazing that no one ever brought food, but they didn’t. Why a writers group? You”ll learn from feedback on the others’ writing as well as from the feedback you get on your own.
  7. Get the right kind of feedback. By that I mean feedback that encourages you to rethink, to celebrate, to correct, etc. Your family loves you. Your friends love you. They want to encourage you with positive praise. But that’s not helpful if your writing needs work (and whose doesn’t?). What you need is feedback from people who will tell you whether they are likely/unlikely/eager to read on or to read more.
  8. Read widely and find things you might not otherwise find. Of course you want to read in the area you write in, but you also want to read beyond that. Read fiction, non-fiction, classics, articles. One caution, however, is to read things that are well-written and well-edited so you don’t pick up any bad habits.

You might want to copy just the eight steps (not the explanations) down and post them somewhere to keep you on track.

Happy writing!

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