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Most writing resources and blogs (including this one) will tell you the number one way to improve your writing is to write—which is true. You cannot improve your writing if you don’t practice and take the lessons you learn along the way and incorporate them into your words.
But rather than writing another post about the importance of writing, I’d like to discuss some other ways for writers to improve their skills.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Whether you’re washing the dishes, taking a walk in the park or stuck in parking-lot-like rush hour traffic, paying attention to our experiences is the first step to conveying a sense of verisimilitude (or realism) in our writing. I’m sure you have all at one point or another come across a passage while reading and thought yes, that’s exactly what that’s like! While those moments can feel like magic, they don’t come to the author through spontaneous inspiration—they begin by paying attention to our experiences so that we can accurately convey them on the page.
- Critique as much as possible. You wouldn’t think that critiquing others makes you a better writer, but it truly does. I’ve written in length about this before, so I won’t go into it in detail, but in short, forcing yourself to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t in other people’s work makes it easier to then recognize the same patterns in your own work, particularly when editing.
- Read widely and often. Stephen King said it best: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” I’ve written about this before as well, but it’s worth saying again: writers MUST read in order to improve.
- Take note of what you like/dislike while reading. I don’t mean that you literally have to write things down (although that doesn’t hurt), but while you’re reading it’s good to pay attention to what you like and what you don’t like. Was that description particularly evocative? What was it about it that really engaged you? Did that chapter feel as if it dragged? Why do you think that was the case? Reading actively is a great way to learn different techniques and writing nuances than you can then incorporate into your own work.
Other than writing, what methods would you add to the list?