Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Becoming a Better Writer

Everyone has advice on how to become a better writer. From articles about keeping readers interested in your work to discussion about generating ideas, opinions are numerous. But how do you decide which advice is going to be useful? If you want to improve your writing skills, there are five basic strategies that you might want to consider.

• Practice

This is universally known as the most important thing that a writer can do to improve their skills. Some people subscribe to the practice of writing every day, no matter what. Others set up schedules that fit their lives. However much time you have to allot to writing, make it a priority. Block out the time in your planner and keep the date with yourself. Or, find a writing buddy and work together to motivate yourselves.

• Reading

Reading good literature can help you write good literature. While it may not be as easy as that, reading is essential in developing your skills as a writer. Read in the genre or genres that you want to write in. Read non-fiction and fiction. Read anything that catches your interest. Not only will you be entertaining yourself, you will be taking in the grammar, pacing, and structure of the work as you read. Take a look at some of your old favorites from a critical point of view. How did the author achieve their goals? Why does it affect you in the way it does? What do you love about it and what do you hate? Learning what you don't like when you read the writing of others can be just as important as identifying what you like!

• Classes

There is much debate between writers about whether the skills can be taught. Writing classes vary greatly in their usefulness. If you find a class with an excellent teacher and know what you want to get out of it, writing classes can be a great way to become a better writer. Not only will you be exposed to different techniques, you will have an opportunity to get your work critiqued and meet other aspiring writers. Many great writing groups have begun in a classroom.

• Books on Writing

Most bookstores have many shelves dedicated to books about writing and getting published. Like classes, these vary in usefulness from writer to writer. If you have specific areas that you want to work on, you may find help in a book. Every writer should have a good grammar or style manual in their collection. Though some rules are frequently broken, knowing what they are can help you decide if they are appropriate to break.

Other books on general writing can be useful to aspiring writers who have yet to develop their skills and techniques. Two of the most commonly recommended books on writing are "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg and "Bird By Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life" by Anne Lamott. Ask other writers you know if they have books they recommend. Just make sure that you are not spending so much time reading books on writing that you forget to actually write!

• Critiques and Beta Readers

It is a hard thing to allow someone to critique your work. Receiving feedback on your article or novel takes a thick skin. However, developing relationships with good beta readers is an excellent way to improve your writing. Your betas may help you discover weaknesses that you had not noticed, and will be an extra set of eyes when you proofread. Make sure to choose people whose opinions you trust and remember that you do not have to take every suggestion that they make.

Becoming a better writer is a matter of time and dedication. Whichever of these techniques you choose, the key is persistence. Your writing may not change overnight but as time passes you will find your work becoming better and better.

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