Have you been reluctant to take lessons in writing, watch online seminars or read books on improving your writing?
Perhaps you fear that if you are too heavily influenced by outside sources you will lose the originality and raw talent of your own style.
Or, that your writing will become like the boring literature they made you read in school.
Here is the bad news: learning how to improve your writing will take away from your originality. However, if you want to make it in the writing world, then you have to accept the good with the bad. You will have to change your attitude if you wish to succeed as a writer.
Tip #1: Change your attitude and think of driving
When you first hop into a car, you may be fantastic at doing doughnuts in the Kmart parking lot, but before they are going to let you on the roads, you are going to have to learn how to obey the rules and drive like everybody else. The same is true when you improve your writing, but where you go from there is up to you. You can be a good driver, or a great driver. The same is true for writing. Just because your writing has improved and conforms to editorial standards, does not mean you cannot build upon it to become the world’s greatest wordsmith.
Tip #2: Learn the rules of English grammar
The rules of English/American/Canadian/Australian grammar are quite strict. While you may occasionally break them, you cannot break them as a rule. Cleaning up grammatical inaccuracy is less about abiding by the rules, and more about making sure the reader can understand what you are getting at.
Tip #3: Record yourself telling the story
Construct the written story from the voice recording, because the way you speak and tell a story will be more natural. The natural storytelling manner will come across in your written text. When you write you have to think then write, and whilst writing your thought process has to stop. If you create a narrative and then speak it, you will find that your thought process is un-interrupted and you speak a far better narrative than you would have otherwise written. All you then need to do is get it down on paper, which involves listening to yourself and writing down what you hear (leaving out the “ums” and “errs”).
Tip #4: Learn the correct spellings of words
You need to know the difference between “there” and “their”, or “has” and “have”. There are always going to be words that you spell incorrectly, and thanks to spellcheckers, they should not cause you any problems. However, many words will not be picked up as mistakes by spellcheckers, so you need to educate yourself on them before you continue.
Tip #5: Learn the rules of sentence structure
It’s important to mix impact with understanding. Words can hold a lot of power if they are placed correctly in a sentence. Sometimes the big-hitter phrase is at the beginning of a sentence, and sometimes it is at the end (like the punch line of a joke). You want to keep the impact but maintain the reader’s understanding. Learning sentence structure, known as “sentence syntax”, is essential if you want to succeed as a writer.
Tip #6: Re-read your work in a few days
Get ready to cringe, because you are going to read parts that you cannot believe you wrote. Other parts will knock your socks off. As you read the text whilst it is still fresh in your mind, the good and bad parts can become grey, lacking distinction. Read it again a few days later when you can recognize (and purge your text of) the stinky bits, leaving the good bits.
What methods do you use to improve your writing? Share your tips!