But before the tips, a quip:
“On plenty of days the writer can write three or four pages, and on plenty of other days he concludes he must throw them away.” ~ Annie Dillard.
This is one of the hardest parts of being a writer: throwing out sentences, paragraphs, and pages of written work. O, how it stings! But, the more writers write, the better they get…and the less they throw out. Or at least, the less bothered they are about tossing away their words.
These writing tips are inspired by the recently launched Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing by Betsy Warland. It’s a doozy of a writing book, helpful for both professional and new writers. We must never stop reading about writing, fellow scribes, or we will stop learning and solidifying the most important writing lessons!
Okay, enough of that. On to this…
Writing Lessons – Practical Tips for Improving Writing Skills
1. Slow down. Breathe. Step away from your writing Good writing takes effort – and it’s worth it. One of the most important writing tips I’m trying to apply is to slow down, take my time, think, and reflect. I have a busy (grueling?) writing and blogging schedule, and I tend to focus on writing faster, producing more, getting more done! But that’s not helping me become a better writer. Hence writing lesson number one: improve your writing skills by stepping back from your writing. Take time to edit. Have the patience and courage to rewrite.
2. What mean you? What say you? Get clear about what you are writing, fellow scribes. If you’re confused and uncertain about what you’re trying to say, then your reader won’t get it, either. I’ve tried tricking editors and readers by glossing over concepts and facts I didn’t understand, and it hasn’t worked once. It just adds to my workload, irritates my editors, and alienates my readers. How do you clarify what you’re trying to say? By understanding it better – perhaps by creating an outline or mind map. Learn more about your topic or theme.
3. Figure out your biggest writing weakness. My biggest writing mistake is, as I mentioned in the first writing lesson, is going too fast. I proofread, but I don’t read out loud. I edit my blog posts, but only once (I’d improve my writing skills immensely if I went back and edited my posts from two, three, four years ago!). I also tend to overuse compound sentences and exclamation points. What are your biggest writing weaknesses? Identifying those will help you become a better writer.
4. Fire up your sense of discovery. Do you get bored when revising your writing? Do you lose interest after writing the first chapter, or first half of the book proposal? Then you won’t go far in improving your writing skills, because the best writers keep writing through boredom, despair, fatigue, and uncertainty. This writing lesson is from Betsy Warland’s book: “The guiding indicator, whether in inscription or composition, is sense of discovery. Discovery is what drives all writing.”
5. Connect with your reader. It can be difficult to connect with readers you’ve never met and probably never will. It’s especially difficult if your intention isn’t to interact or connect with readers. Maybe you just want to write, and not know your readers at all. Maybe you don’t want to get personal in your writing. Even so, you’ll improve your writing if you insert a little emotion into your work. Be connectable somehow – even if you’re writing a college essay or a business report. A great way to connect with your reader and improve your writing skills is to keep practicing your writer’s voice. You don’t need to spill your guts to connect with your reader…you just need to sprinkle a little personality to your words.
What say you, fellow scribes? I welcome your “writing lessons” or tips for improving your writing skills below…