• S.M. Ryan

How to Improve Your Writing Skills

Pro-tip: None of this involves not writing.

Whether you’re one of those writers that think of your writing as something that comes easy or not, there’s always room for improvement. Though let me say first hand that nothing about your writing will improve if you avoid actively working at it and hope that simply writing a bunch of stories and publishing a lot of books will do the job alone.


It may help because eventually writing a lot will teach you something but the only way to actively improve your writing skills and improve your writing blind spots is to intentionally work at it.


So new writer, or highly experienced writer, here are five ways you can work to improve your writing craft.



Intentional Practice

Practicing your writing regularly is a sure way to get better, and the more you write the better you will gradually get. Every time you sit down to write can be thought of as practice because it will inevitably lead to you being a better writer.


One way to make that practice more effective and improve faster is to practice your writing with intention. Scheduling some writing time to practice working on specific areas of your writing will help you improve those areas faster and improve your writing overall that much quicker.


For example, if you feel like one of your weaknesses is setting descriptions, take some writing time to focus only on setting descriptions focusing on using the five senses. You can then take it a step further and practice describing settings using only one sense at a time. This can be especially useful if you find you’re struggling to describe a setting that is important in a project you’re working on but maybe you feel you can’t get it quite right.


Practicing your writing with a focus on the areas you feel need work or you just want to strengthen will help you improve faster than trying to improve everything at once.



Read More

This should come as no surprise but the more you read, the more your writing benefits.


Reading within the genres you write in will help you learn the rhythm and story structure that readers come to expect from your genre and it will help you learn what you like, don’t like, want to implement in your own writing and what you want to do better.


Though it’s just as important to read outside of your genre because it will help you learn different ways you can approach your own stories in your chosen genre. If you normally write science fiction, reading a thriller can teach you how to improve suspense the same way reading a romance will help you better understand how to navigate your romantic sub-plots.


You can indulge in your pleasure reads and learn something from them that will help you in your own writing. If there is an author whose books you always buy, re-read them with intention. Ask yourself what it is you love about their stories and what you can learn from them that will help you improve when writing your own stories, then practice implementing that into your own writing.



Invest in Your Education

I’m never going to say that any writer or creative person really needs a degree in their field. There are too many rich folks walking around with fat bank accounts and less than a high school diploma on their walls. Though not chasing a degree in writing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek learning opportunities to help you expand as a writer and improve your writing skills.


Suggesting that you invest isn't synonymous with monetary investments, though it doesn’t exclude them.


Investing in your writing education is as simple as including more dynamic reads in your library and taking advantage of all the free and very low-cost opportunities available to learn from.


There are hundreds of writers on Youtube giving writing advice away for free. From ways, you can improve specific areas of your writing to how you can grow your author platform and reading audience. You can learn how to market your book, get beta readers, fully self publish, and everything in-between for FREE right here on the internet.


There are also writers, like me, sharing blog posts aiming to help writers improve at no cost at all.


When you begin to feel like you’ve learned everything you can from free resources, there are other places you can dive into as well.


Skillshare — which is basically an online school you can attend for $10 a month— there’s no subject off-limits.


If you want to learn how to write memoirs - there‘s a course on that. If you want to learn how to develop characters, there's a class on that too. If you want to learn how to build your audience of readers, there's a class on it.


You get where I’m going with this.


If you got the bankroll, you can also invest in E-courses. You can become part of online writing forums and communities, and even reaching out to other writers for advice can get you connected to useful resources — just don’t be pushy or creepy about it.



Writing Exercises

This tip expands on my prior tip for practicing with intention. Doing targeted writing exercises or self-imposed writing challenges can benefit your writing skills greatly.


If you are someone who always writes novel-length stories, you can challenge yourself to re-write an old novel-length story into a short story form and improve your storytelling. If you’re a short story writer, do the opposite, see if you can learn to expand your stories to novel-length reads.


You can also use writing prompts as a way to step out of your genre or as a way to practice how you approach ideas.


How can you take a writing prompt and make it your own?


Even re-writing a scene from your favorite book, tv show, or movie can be an exercise that helps you develop your writing skills. Something as simple as changing which point of view you write a story from can help improve your writing skills and may help you realize other writing strengths that you haven’t discovered yet.


Once you discover them, keep working at them.



Self-Editing

The ability to self-edit your work is a skill all writers need. Whether you plan to self-publish, traditionally publish, or never publish at all, you still need to go through multiple rounds of edits and rewrites before you can send it off to anyone to read.


Self-editing is unavoidable, makes us cringe at our own mistakes but ultimately improves us as writers over time because it helps us to see where our strengths and weaknesses are. Every time you edit a piece of your written work, you’re improving your writing skills for the next time you sit down to write because you’ll know what areas to be mindful of when you work and it’ll help you figure out what you can practice in your writing.



What do you do to help yourself improve your writing skills?



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©2020 by S.M. Ryan The Writer | Armed With Ink Publishing