Successful authors mystify us with how easy writing seems to come to them. Some people believe people are born with the skill to write or they’re not. However, writing is a skill that can be learned. Even the best writers have improved from when they started. Nearly every writer I talk to shares the same tips and hacks for improving as a writer. Here are a few of them:
1. Write Regularly
You don’t have to write every day, but it’s easier to stay in the flow of your work and in the habit of writing if you do. I write every day if I’m working on a book unless it’s a holiday, birthday, or a family gathering. If you can’t write every day, write as frequently and regularly as possible.
2. Read Regularly
Writers are readers. Read a variety of books to expose yourself to different styles of writing. Most writers avoid reading in the genre they’re writing in as they’re writing. However, when you’re not writing, you should absolutely read in your genre so you can stay up-to-date on the latest trends. Consider keeping a reading journal with quotes, your impressions, and other observations you make that can help you in your writing. I often write words used in situations I hadn’t considered using them in. For example, the word shimmer in a love scene.
3. Don’t Edit as You Write
Nothing slows down the creative writing process faster than switching to editor mode. It can also make you doubt your abilities.
I’m convinced writing and editing use different sides of the brain and can’t work simultaneously. You might think you can in the same way you think you can multitask. The truth is, you’re doing one or the other.
When you write, focus on getting all the ideas in your head on the paper, regardless of the quality of writing, spelling errors, missing punctuation, and everything else that can be wrong. When you’re done writing, then you can revise.
4. Accept that First Drafts Suck
No one who makes a living writing publishes a first draft. I saw a Facebook Live with Nora Roberts in which she indicated she had four to six revisions before her books were published. The good news is that the more you write and get critiqued, the better the first drafts get, but they’re still not publishing quality.
Just accept that your first draft will be messy and ugly. It will have weak words, passive voice, clichés and all the stuff you’re told not to use. But the first draft isn’t the place to worry about them. Revision is.
5. Get Feedback
The more you do something, the better you get at it. But in writing, you need to know what areas you’re weak in and how to strengthen your prose. So writing regularly and getting critique are crucial to improvement. Critique and editing have vastly improved my writing. Hands down, they are the top two reasons I get paid to write now. I highly recommend joining a critique group. If you can’t find one and would be interested in one through Write with Harte, let me know.
Getting critique can be hard. You need to listen for the constructive criticisms and tips, and avoid feeling like your book is being attacked. But if you pay attention, you’ll learn easy ways to instantly improve your writing. Some of these tips you’ll internalize and use them as you write your draft. Others you’ll use when you revise. Check out Write With Harte’s post on 7 Tips to Dealing with Critique Feedback