“Live a life of curiosity and art, not fear…” – Unknown
Writing is hard.
And in a day and age when any type of content is available right at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever for aspiring writers to write.
Furthermore, writing has evolved from simply putting several sentences together and calling it a day. To be successful, writers must now approach their craft with more of a strategic and well-researched mindset.
However, regardless of experience or skill level, writing is a craft that requires continuous practice, refinement, dedication, and effort—more than what many people are willing to put in.
This is what separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls.
If you are a writer who wants to improve your writing, or become a writer altogether, here are some things you can do.
13 Ways to Become a Better Writer
Improving your writing and becoming a better writer comes down to developing—and perfecting—the habit. Here are some things you can do today to improve your writing.
1. Develop the habit.
This is often the most difficult place to start, but it’s necessary. This is the first step for any writer, regardless of skill, experience, niche, or expertise. After all, your article isn’t going to write itself. If you don’t make time to write, you can’t improve. You can’t publish or share your work.
If you are already pressed for time or have other commitments, then start small. Focus on developing the habit. Commit to only writing one sentence per day. Make it a daily recurring task on your calendar or to-do list. Make time to do it, stick with it, and soon it will become a habit.
Once you make writing a regular habit, you will find it easier to write. The easier it is to write, the better you will become. Eventually, you will look forward to writing rather than procrastinating and putting it off.
Remember, consistency matters more than perfection.
2. Know your audience.
I want to make this one super clear: Anything you write should be about your audience. If you want to write about your thoughts, opinions, and feelings, that’s what your journal is for. The best writers do both.
You may need to take some time to imagine who your readers are or who you want to write to. Are they executives, software developers, Yoga instructors, or stay-at-home moms?
Regardless of your audience, your writing should speak to them in more ways than one. It should help them solve a problem and provide value in some way. It should also evoke emotion.
3. Organize ideas.
Writing is easier when you have a topic to write about. In addition to making time to write consistently, create a system for gathering, storing, and organizing ideas.
I suggest using a running document, spreadsheet, mind map, digital or physical board, or an audio file where you can store your ideas. For me, Evernote has been working great for years:
Whether you use a notebook—digital or analog—the “voice memo” application on your phone, find a tool or app that is easy for you to grab in the middle of whatever you are doing to note ideas as they come to mind. If you’re driving or in the shower, ask Siri or Alexa to make a note.
Remember, an idea is an idea. Don’t overthink it. Before you sit down to write, dive into your creative resources to begin turning those ideas into works of art.
4. Follow a process.
Good, quality writing involves following a repeatable process. Every writer’s process looks a little different, but here are some steps to follow:
- Research topics and keywords (What topics are your audiences interested in? What research, studies, or surveys are out there to support your hypotheses?)
- Develop an outline, complete with an introduction, the body, and a conclusion.
- Write the “meat and potatoes” of your content. This is where you organize the main topics into sections and fill in the details.
- Review, edit, and proofread.
- Fact check.
- Final review.
- Share on social media, email, and other channels where your audience will see your work.
- Review. Repurpose. Repeat.
5. Focus on one article or piece at a time.
If you are working on writing multiple topics at the same time, then it can feel like you are making little progress, which decreases your motivation to write in the first place. Start slow, and focus on one piece at a time. You will not only produce better work, but you will also publish more consistently.
6. Follow a structured outline.
This point also goes back to audience. While writing, think about not only what you are writing but who you are writing for, what format and structure are best for getting the information across to readers and in a way where they can absorb and retain that information.
Be clear in your communication and messaging. What is the message you want readers to really grasp and understand? Now, look at your writing. Does it successfully do that?
For example, look at the format of this article. It has a brief introduction, which clearly states the “problem statement”, or what this article will be about, and most importantly, what you can expect to get out of it.
Then, the information is organized into numbered (or bulleted) points, allowing you to easily skim the information and pull out what is most interesting or relevant to you.
Finally, if you skip ahead to the end, there is a conclusion that provides a summary, final thoughts, and key takeaways.
7. Use tools to help you.
Like any craft, you need tools in your toolbox. Here are some recommended tools for writers:
- Google Alerts for keeping up-to-date on certain industries or keywords that you are an “expert” in or that your audience likes to read about.
- Evernote for note-taking
- Grammarly for a pretty thorough grammar and spelling check (Spell Check isn’t enough!)
- Canva to create templatized blog header images, graphics, and social media thumbnails
- Fathom for recording meetings or interviews via Zoom
- Copyscape for checking for duplicate content
The best part? Most of these tools are free or for a very low cost.
8. Perfect your opening act.
Before buying a new book, I always open it and read the first sentence in the first chapter. If it doesn’t immediately grab my attention, then I put the book back.
I have kept this in mind while writing my own work, ensuring that the first sentence and introductory paragraph grab the reader, and tell them what, why, and how they can expect to gain from reading my article.
Of course, this approach is best suited for articles that are written to solve a problem for readers. However, this isn’t always appropriate and greatly depends on the nature of the article. You may want to consider opening with a joke or anecdote. Another option is to open your article with a detailed, physical description of something that evokes emotions and allows the reader to connect with your work.
9. Forget the flowery language.
Many writers and aspiring writers think they need to write long, beautifully-crafted sentences with the perfect syntax and garnished with rich words to consider themselves a “good writer”. Forget this.
Sure, there is a time and place for flowery language, such as creative writing and poetry contests, but if you are just starting out as a writer or a blogger, this isn’t it…
Again, this goes back to your audience. Don’t lose them in vocabulary they don’t understand just because you think it sounds good or reads intelligently. Avoid putting the disclaimer “Dictionary required” at the beginning of your article.
Remember, you aren’t trying to be the next New York Times bestseller (well, maybe you are, and that’s a great goal), but start small.
10. Write for multiple channels.
Start with your own blog. Use this as your own space for building, experimenting with, and expanding your writing style and format.
Then, expand to other paid writing channels, such as the following:
Build a portfolio you can show off. It takes time, patience, and dedication, but your writing can transform into a lucrative career, if that’s your goal.
11. Follow other blogs and publications.
Find other blogs and publications by writers that inspire you. Pay attention to what they write about and how they write, and find ways you can emulate that and put your own unique, creative spin on it.
12. Learn what works for you, and master it.
Improving and becoming a writer involves a great deal of experimentation. It’s about learning your own writing style and what you are comfortable with, learning who you want to write for and who your audience is, and learning what writing process works for you.
As a professional writer of 15+ years, I have developed my own format, structure, and process for writing that I have perfected over time. However, this structure doesn’t work for everyone.
If you are an outline person, then create and follow an outline. If that doesn’t work for you, then make a list of points you want to write about, or you can begin by free association writing, then work on organizing your ideas and points later.
For example, in many cases, you may end up writing your introductory sentence and paragraph last. There’s no right or wrong way to approach writing an article. The point is to determine the structure and process that works for you and perfect it.
13. Do believe in yourself. Don’t give up.
As I started at the beginning of this article, writing is hard. It is a craft that requires continuous practice, refinement, dedication, patience, and effort—more than what many people are willing to put in.
Yes, like anything, being a writer requires constant practice, precision, persistence, and patience. Don’t expect to publish one piece and have it go viral. If you’re just starting out, set small goals you can realistically accomplish. Believing you can reach that point is the first step.
However, it can be a highly rewarding and fulfilling career, if that is what you want. After all, who wouldn’t want a career that allows them to put their true, innate creative powers to work, to create something that empowers or helps others, and to be able to work when and where they want?