There’s more to writing than pushing a pen across a piece of paper, and there’s more to being a writer than having written.
These days, everyone’s a writer. We write emails, text messages, and lists. A free blog is just a few clicks away. Self-publishing has drawn tens of thousands of dreamers who have scrawled stories and uploaded them to the web for all to read.
Everyone’s a writer, including you.
But how do you differentiate yourself? How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you make your words and ideas resonate with a reading audience?
Steps to Becoming a Better Writer
There’s more to becoming a better writer than improving your writing, although that’s certainly part of it. Here are a few ways you can become a better writer:
1. Make the commitment: Sometimes the difference between a working writer and a would-be author is as simple as making a commitment to writing (and then sticking with it).
2. Do the work: Write as often as you can, every day if possible. Spend more time writing than talking about writing or thinking about writing. Improvement comes with practice!
3. Engage with other writers: They will keep your fire burning, and they can help you with your writing. Find a writing buddy or group of writers and swap critiques.
4. Study the craft: There’s always more to learn. Writing is a complex and intricate field. I don’t think anyone can learn it all in one lifetime, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying!
5. Read: The single best way to become a better writer is to simply read.
6. Know the industry: If you plan on being a professional writer, you should familiarize yourself with the business side of things. Become knowledgeable about submitting your work, publishing, and marketing.
7. Be diligent: Rewrite, edit, proof, repeat. Nobody wants to read your rough drafts, including agents, editors, and fellow writers who are critiquing your work or helping you with proofreading and editing.
8. Build a platform: Thanks to the internet, it is cheaper and easier to build a platform today than ever before. Learn how to market yourself: find your readers, connect with them, and sell your books.
9. Know your audience: I like to think of a reading audience as a group of people connected by a common interest or passion. Who are your readers?
10. Be yourself: Don’t write what’s hot, write what’s in your heart.
How much effort do you invest in improving your writing? Do you take steps every day to become a better writer? What steps have you taken to develop your craft and grow as a writer? Do you have any tips to add to this list? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing!
I don’t exactly have a buddy group of writers.I have embarked on writing the first draft of my first novel.I have kept a few friends to provide me feedback on my writing so that i can get more on what the readers would like.I plan to complete my novice novel’s maiden rough draft by October. I dream of becoming more than a mediocre writer and have become a frequent dreamer of late.Thanks to the encouragement the beginners find in this wonderful site.
That’s wonderful, Peter. I wish you the best of luck in writing your novel.
Excellent advice! Being a writer is hard work. It’s something we have to work at every single day. I find if I don’t make a time commitment and deadline with myself, I’ll keep pushing it off to do other things…none of them necessarily more important, but maybe more fun on certain days. Thanks for the reminders that writing is something I have to do daily.
Thanks, Kat! We’re on the same page.
very helpful info.
A fascinating piece, as always, Melissa. It’s a bit like losing weight in a way; we all know HOW to do it but want someone to make it easier than eating less and exercising more! In short, we want a Fairy Godmother to turn us into writers! Somehow, I think that’s unlikely – don’t you?
By the way, I loved the sense of fun in the picture to this post – it’s generally thought of as the worst first line in history! Thank you for reminding me of it.
I don’t think it’s the worst first line. It was popular and got repeated so much that it became a cliché. It’s actually the first line of one of my favorite childhood books (A Wrinkle in Time), so maybe I’m biased.
Yes, writing is a LOT of work. I find it to be more work and more exhausting than most other work that I’ve done. I think the process of using both sides of your brain is quite taxing (but in a good way).
Hello again, Melissa. I didn’t/don’t know the book ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, and I certainly didn’t want to cast aspersions on your favourite children’s book. The infamous line was the opening to Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel, Paul Clifford, and in full is here, for the benefit of those who haven’t come across it:
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
I defy you to say that’s not pretty dire!
It’s a pretty good opening for a novel, and yes, it is dire indeed! I know that it’s seen as a cliché line; I just wanted to point out that it has been used effectively.
I am yet to find a post of yours that’s not beneficial or influential to my writing. You have my most sincere gratitude for the abundance of advice available through this website.
Thanks so much for your kind words. They mean a lot to me, Holland.
Thanks for this reminder to keep sharpening and working.
Great list. #2 is easily the most important. The best way to improve your writing is to just write. And write often! Another tip to add to your list (which may contradict #10) is to write something different. Try a different writing style (funny if you’re always serious), or write about a topic you’re not too familiar with. Even if it’s just a blog post or something no one will see. It’s a great exercise to shake your creative juices up.
Hm. I think reading is even more important than writing, but there comes a point when we are well read and need to turn our attention to writing. I always say that reading and writing are the two most important activities for a writer. Can’t have one without the other! I agree that writers will benefit from exploring different forms, genres, and styles. It’s a great way to get your creativity flowing.
Thanks for the tips! I have been struggling with my first novel of late and I have been worried that its becoming more of what I usually write so your tips are going to help me greatly. Thanks again.
Thanks, Matthew. I’m glad you find these tips helpful. Comments like yours keep me going.
Just stumbled upon your site and appreciated it greatly. Have printed the above ten steps and posted them near my desk. I especially took note of your emphasis on reading – something I’ve always thought true but don’t hear often. Anyway, I’ll be looking at the rest of your work, and thank you very much.
By the way, regarding opening lines: some decades ago, while passing through the empty writing room of a “blocked” writer/friend, I noticed just one line written on the page in his typewriter.
It read: The night was moist.
Thanks, Markie! I’m glad you found these tips helpful. I don’t know what to say about the moist night. That’s a new one.
I thank you Melissa! your article directly touched my greatest problem with its solution. I can say I’m number one person who spend much time on reading and talking how to become good writer, but never try to write a single line! I will try to apply all your recommendations to become a better writer. thanks!
You’re off to a good start if you’re reading a lot.
just be yourself, because while copying you ought to make mistakes but while writing your own story you are not going to make anything wrong because it’s never written somewhere else 🙂
“Be yourself” is almost always good advice.
I read a ton of Writer’s Digest just highlighting the books from the Write Great Fiction Series, and I also used to do the exercises from your book 101 Creative Writing Exercises back when I won a copy a couple years ago (THANKS AGAIN!!!). I don’t do the exercises from the WD books, but I try my best to incorporate what I just learned each time I sit down to work on my novel, instead.
I’ve got 8 out of 10 of those tips down pat, I just don’t know the industry yet nor have I built that much of a platform. I’ve got a small following on my site http://www.yourwritetolive.com where I provide ways to use writing tips as tools for self knowledge.
I think #10 in this article is the most important because you gotta be yourself, everyone else is already taken. But being yourself is not possible if you do not know yourself, so I guess that’s what I would add to that aspect. The better you know different aspects of yourself, the more you can create diverse characters from all different parts of yourself and beyond!
Thank you for the wonderful video review you did for 101 Creative Writing Exercises! It takes time to learn the industry and build a platform, and I think it’s more important to focus on the actual writing first. I couldn’t agree with you more about #10 being the most important. It sounds like you’re on a good track, Marlon, and I wish you the best of luck.
i love this website. i’ve marked this site as my favorite.
am in 11th grade, and i love writing, let it be speeches or stories.
Thank you! I’m glad you are enjoying the site, Archana. Good luck with all your writing endeavors!
Thanks a lot for creating this website, Melissa!
I’m currently writing a story. I love writing, but I definitely needed more tips, and now I have them!
I just have no idea where I can find a writing buddy, cause in my school, there aren’t many people who like writing. Sadly, they find it boring.
Apart from that, the tips helped me and now I feel more confident to keep writing!
Thank you again, Melissa!
You’re welcome! It’s hard to find a writing buddy. You might start by joining a writing group and maybe you’ll find a writing buddy there. Check with your local library and bookstores. Some of these groups have gone online during the pandemic. You might need to wait a few months for others to resume. At school, check with your English (I think they call it literary arts in some schools now) teachers, who probably know which other students enjoy writing. If you go to college (I hope you do!), there will be many opportunities to find writing groups and buddies, even if you major in something else. Best of luck to you, and keep writing!