No matter what level you are as a writer, there is always room for improvement. The internet is saturated with tips on how to advance your writing skills. Some of them are legit, some of them want to sell you something, and all of them are redundant. I’m not saying mine are anything that hasn’t been said before, but as a writer, these tips are the ones I’ve found to be most helpful in my growth.
Have your computer read your work out loud so you can catch any grammar mistakes.
This is a technical tip from my own experience of staring at my computer screen until my vision blurs and all of the words start jumbling together into a nonsensical mishmash of madness. You can reread a passage 10,000 times and still miss the very obvious grammar mistake simply because your brain has already become desensitized to the information and cannot take in any new stimuli.
Text To Speech
To combat your own brain and look at things from a different angle, highlight a sentence, paragraph, or your whole damn piece, and have your computer read it aloud to you. I use word to write most of my work, and a Mac computer. Macs have a feature called Text-To-Speech, which allows you to highlight a section of text and have your computer speak it to you.
For information on how to enable this feature on your Mac, see: Hear Selected Text Read Aloud
Leave your work for a few days or months, depending on how much time you have, and go back to it with fresh eyes.
Writing anything long term, such as a research paper or a novel, takes a lot of mental energy and focus. If you’ve spent an extended period of time working on a piece, chances are good your brain is clogged with not only the material that made it onto the page, but also all the junk that didn’t.
As a writer, we tend to stretch our brains in several different areas of thought to decide which direction is best to take our work. This can lead to overstimulation and mental burn out. A mind that has been fried is not going to produce good content.
To remedy this issue, leave your work until all thoughts of it are forgotten. Only when it is completely forgotten can your brain start to declutter and enter a “cool down period”. After you’ve stopped thinking about it for a while, go back to it, and all of the exterior material that doesn’t quite fit into your plot or thesis will suddenly become blatantly obvious. Then you can go about trimming the fat and finalizing your work.
Create a writing routine. The more you write, the better you will be.
Would a painter who only lifted a brush once a month be as good as a painter who painted every day? Well that’s entirely subjective and dependent on what your definition of success is, but whatever craft you dabble in, the same rule holds true: Practice.
I remember being younger and hearing my parents tell me constantly to practice the French horn. They wanted me to be the best French horn player in the world, but since I was never entirely passionate about it, I never practiced. I was too busy thinking up weird stories and acting them out or writing them down. As such, I wasn’t very good at the French horn.
Practice is the act of continuously performing an action to increase skill, speed, and accuracy. Through practice, you learn the routine of performing those actions, and with routine comes comfort. Practice is about the only comfort that is helpful, because this comfort (unlike your comfort zone, where nothing ever happens) leads to growth.
The more you write, the better you will be. Even someone who lacks the inherent skills of a writer can learn the craft. No one came out of the womb being able to write like the masters. They trained hard and worked at their passion every single day.
Do you have any tips to improve your writing? Leave a comment!