Please take some excellent advice that’s been passed along by someone who’s been a writer, at a professional level for over two decades, as well as she teaching technical writing for nearly that long. Every seminar or conference held, every writing staff, every class she teaches, invariably the same question is always asked: “How Can I Become A Better Writer?”
They however, usually don’t like the answer, which is always. “Practice your writing every day and then constantly be reading to study the writing of others.”
So why don’t most like that answer? Well, for two reasons. Some are as usual looking for some quick easy fix, a tweak, an instant magic formula that will transform them into a better writer in say… 3 easy steps. Although her suggestions involved only two steps, it’s pretty well obvious and evident that it’s a long-term process. Some will even sneer at the first step because they already consider themselves accomplished “real writers”, so their ego dictates that they don’t need that step. They believe they are blessed with a special writing gift that simply needs to be fined tuned or unlocked by a magic key that other published and successful writers possess.
Like any other craft, there is simply no way to improve writing skills other than to practice to get better. Write something, anything every day. Experiment, revise, plan, leave it and revisit. Make self imposed deadlines, challenges, and competitions. Constantly push yourself and guaranteed, your writing will eventually get better and reward you. Write a review in the same style by a writer who inspires you, and then write something completely unique on your own.
Just Write Write Write Then Read Read Read
However, do not keep yourself in a vacuum, or in an ivory tower. Always read the writing of a variety of other authors. Read far, deep and wide. Pick up on their style and delivery. Be reading nonfiction, fiction, song lyrics and poetry. Read about arguments and one-sided persuasion, read informative, technical and biographical articles, read science and science fiction and fantasy. Read well known talented, skilled professionals and read those who are finding their writing feet.
You are constantly reading to gain confidence and inspiration. You’re always reading to build your vocabulary, your style and technique, you are stockpiling a book of writing tricks. You read others to learn about the rhythms and patterns of their language. You’re reading everyone else so that as you write, you will then be able to develop your own unique voice.
So learning on how to be a better writer isn’t something you can compact into a weekend seminar or a semester. Learning to improve your writing is your life’s work that is a constant work in progress. If you’re a career writer, then your work will never really be considered done anyways. There isn’t a professional writer out there who just sits back and says “Okay, I’m done learning how to write now, I’m definitely as good as I’m ever going to get”. Certainly it shouldn’t take a lifetime to reach professional writing status, but, that shouldn’t be your goal either. Thinking that way may hold you back from becoming the best writer that you can be.
There are times say when a particular project is rejected and it had nothing to do with your writing style, but was rather the topic, or the particular needs of that publisher. You cannot obviously control how or when you will eventually become a published, professional writer, but you can however control your progress towards improving your writing. Your writing skill will become stronger and thus easier to be able to achieve your goals. When you eventually reach the point where you regularly can deliver quality writing, then you will be able to find a market. If you write it, they will come.
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