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10 Tips For Becoming a Great Writer

Harper Lee’s debut novel was “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Unfortunately for the rest of us, all-time classic novels don’t come quite so easily. We must develop strong habits, tools, and processes to grow as writers and achieve long-term success.

In this article, we’ll explain the top ten tips to help writers achieve their literary goals.

1. Read, Read, Read

Dedicated reading leads to better writing. Writers must read not only for pleasure, but also with the intent to learn. They must study novels and poems the way a student studies a textbook. Reading a wide spectrum of material helps expose writers to new styles, expand their vocabulary, and critically analyze what they read to improve their own work.

Every author can teach you a unique insight. J.R.R. Tolkien can show you how to build a world from scratch. Tony Robbins can display what a compelling argument looks like. Cormac McCarthy can offer one-of-a-kind prose. And Shakespeare can teach you how to create compelling drama.


2. Write Every Day

Great writers write every day. As exercising keeps our bodies fit, daily writing keeps our creative muscles strong.

For those of us battling busy schedules, daily writing is an intimidating prospect. But there are practices for consistent writing that won’t take up hours of your time.

Journaling

When you don’t know what to write, journaling is a fantastic way to complete a daily writing routine. Whether you wake up and record your dreams, brainstorm interesting ideas, or simply express what’s on your mind, journaling is to writers what shooting around at the gym is to a basketball player. You don’t have to be perfect, you just need to get some shots up.

Writing Prompts

Writing prompts are a helpful daily writing practice because they can get your creative juices flowing and stimulate your writing brain in a unique way. If someone else is offering the prompt, it can push you out of your comfort zone, allowing you to surprise yourself and improve as a writer.

You can find hundreds of writing prompts at storyaday.org.

Daily Word Count Goals

If you’re working towards a large writing goal, daily word count or page count objectives can help push you to make consistent progress. Every writer is different. There’s no hard and fast minimum for words-per-day, and some of the greatest authors were notoriously slow writers. However, if you have a hard time feeling motivated to write, a word count goal may be what you need to develop consistency in your routine.

Create Accountability

If nobody is holding you accountable for your writing, you’ll have to create accountability for yourself. Here are a few ways to up the stakes of your commitment.

Tell People About Your Project — Many writers work on their projects in secret. When you tell people about it, they become likely to periodically ask you how it’s going… and you better have a good answer for them!

Rewards and Punishments — Reward yourself for reaching your goals. For example, if you complete your daily writing goal, allow yourself a special “job well done” snack. If you nail your goal each day for a week, reward yourself with something bigger. Stikk.com can attach financial incentives to your goals.

If you don’t complete your goals, try giving yourself a punishment. Skip that after-dinner ice cream sundae. Finish a chore you've been putting off. Just go easy on yourself; you don't want to become discouraged!

Partner Up — Find a fellow writer and hold each other accountable when it comes to completing goals. Offer support and positive feedback, and inspire each other to push through difficult parts of the process.

3. Minimize Distractions

Distractions are the death of good writing. Scientists have proved it. A George Mason University study found that a series of small distractions caused participants working on an SAT-style essay to score much lower than their distraction-free counterparts.

Distractions are everywhere. When writing on a computer, we’re merely a click or two away from a rabbit hole of cute animal GIFs. Our phones are constantly blinking and buzzing like an insect performing a mating ritual. To minimize distractions, we must be disciplined. Here’s a few suggestions for shutting out the noise:

  • Leave your phone in another room while writing.

  • Turn off your WiFi while you write.

  • Try installing apps like Freedom, StayFocusd, or Forest that block apps and incentive focus.

  • Organize your workspace in a way that’s conducive to writing.

  • If you have a hectic household, consider going to a library or a coffee shop to write.

  • Wear headphones or earbuds as a “Do Not Disturb” sign for the world.

  • Commit to a writing time period and stick to it.

4. Learn From Feedback

It’s difficult to improve your writing if you never show it to anyone and listen to feedback. Although it’s surely terrifying, offering your work up for assessment allows you to view your work through a different lens. There are multiple ways to obtain feedback on your writing.

Writer's Groups

Writer’s groups are a helpful tool for writers as they ensure accountability, they help expand networks, and offer great sources of unique perspectives on writing.

Sometimes it takes another point of view to spark an idea inside of you, or bring up an interesting point you never thought of. Plus, reading your fellow writers’ works will help you examine writing with a critical eye, and carefully communicate your opinions. These new insights can influence better habits in your own material.

Contest Submissions

Submitting to contests allows writers to receive feedback from objective, impartial judges. Contests are especially helpful if you’re hoping to gain an audience with your writing or submit your work to publishers.

Contest readers are often professionals who have read the work of hundreds of writers. Their experienced eyes can view your work in a way that amateur readers cannot, and identify what’s working and what isn’t. The better your work is, the better your feedback will be, because the contest reader will need to dig deeper to successfully judge it.

Here is a great list of contests writers can enter:

Online Feedback

Writers can find readers to give them feedback on sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Critique Circle. Social media sites like Facebook, Reddit, and LinkedIn are also good places to meet other writers who may agree to read your work.

However, finding feedback online can be unreliable. Writers must always be careful who they send their work to. Reach out to your network before you start sharing with strangers.

5. Pursue Education

If you’re passionate about something, you usually want to learn everything there is to know about that subject. That’s why you’re reading this article. We can only teach you so much in ten tips, but there are several ways to learn more about the art of writing.

Writing Degrees

There are several studies that are suited to writers seeking to improve their craft and earn a degree. These degree programs include:

  • Creative Writing

  • Liberal Arts

  • Journalism

  • English

  • Film & Television

  • Marketing

  • Communications

  • Publishing

Online Classes

Besides earning degrees online, the internet is a perfect place to find short-term educational opportunities. You can find online classes that fit any budget, from interactive classes taught on Zoom, to at-your-own-pace courses such as Udemy’s free writing course. Masterclass is a popular platform that offers courses from experts like Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Brown, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol, and David Mamet.

Seminars, Workshops and Labs

Writing seminars, workshops, and labs can be a perfect way for writers to up their games. If you’re feeling lethargic in your writing journey, a seminar can be the best way to kickstart you into gear. Seminars can be online or in-person, and are often specific in what they seek to achieve for participants.

Writing workshops and labs are essentially writers groups with a teacher there to lead the way. Workshops and labs are usually smaller than seminars, allowing students to interact more with the teacher and each other.

All three classes provide wonderful opportunities to meet and connect with fellow writers in your area (and online).

Reading About Writing

Calling back to number one on our list: Writers need to read a lot. What better way to learn about writing than to read from the writing experts? Check out our list of must-read professional writing books to load yourself up with information all about the craft. Here are some of the books we recommend:

  • On Writing by Stephen King

  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White

  • Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

  • Sense of Style by Steven Pinker


6. Don’t Try To Be Perfect

As Winston Churchill famously said: “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” This quote applies to writing more than most other disciplines. Many writers out there experience the nagging feeling that their writing will never be good enough. This feeling causes writers to never finish their work because, well, what’s the point?

In reality, getting your words on the blank page is most of the battle. In your first draft especially, don’t worry about anything except moving forward page-by-page, line-by-line. You can always go back after you’ve finished and edit. Which brings us to…

7. Fiercely Self-Edit

Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.

If you couldn’t tell by the above quote, editing is a vital part of the writing process. Writers must be ruthless with their editing, removing any elements of their work that don't serve the story, no matter how much the author may love those elements.

Authors must write and edit with their reader in mind. Keep them turning those pages. If your work is bloated or meandering, the reader may never get to experience that killer twist you wrote on page one hundred and seventeen. Cut as much as you can!

8. Stay Healthy

For all we’ve preached in this article about pushing through adversity on your writing journey, your life is more important than your art. Plus, if your life is in a bad place, your art will suffer. It’s vital to set boundaries and prioritize your mental and physical health above all else.

Writers must take breaks — get away from your desk, go outside, do some yoga! Exercise often and eat well. Call a friend on the phone. Read a book for the pleasure of a good story. As Stephen King says in On Writing: “Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.”

9. Consult A Pro

Enlisting the help of a professional is a surefire way to improve your writing. There are a few different types of pros you may want to consult.

Book Coach

A book coach is like a trainer in the gym. You’re still going to have to do the heavy lifting, but your book coach can help you get it done. Their job is to inspire you, challenge your bad habits, teach you proper technique, and champion your progress.

Developmental Editor

Developmental editors work on your writing from a broad point of view. They will examine your thesis argument, structure, style, characters, themes, and plot. Discussing solutions with a developmental editor is an excellent way to grow quickly as a writer.

Ghostwriters

Ghostwriters are for folks with big ideas, but want to work with an expert writer to communicate those ideas. Ghostwriters are some of the most experienced, consistent, and technically advanced writers out there, so enlisting them for help with your book idea is a surefire way to learn a lot about the writing process.

At Write It Great, our ghostwriters help anyone become an author. Having written several books for satisfied clients, our in-house writers know what it takes to get a book done, and done well.

10. Be Yourself

You will never be William Shakespeare, but he will never be you, either. Many writers fall into the trap of emulating the ones who inspire them, losing sight of their own voice.

Everybody has a story to tell, and an original point of view. While it’s great to learn from the best, you also must learn to trust yourself as a writer and develop your own style. No matter what the subject matter of your story, your voice as a writer is how you will connect with an audience and keep them coming back for more.

To find your voice as a writer, you must write often, and write as honestly as you can. Some writers naturally use colloquial language, while others are more direct and to-the-point. Only through practice can you discover your own, unique voice.

You Can Be Great!

Writing is a powerful tool that can be used to express ourselves, communicate with others, and document our thoughts and ideas. It allows us to share our unique perspective with the world and make our voices heard.

With passion, discipline, and honesty you can be a great writer. By following these ten tips, and discovering what works best for you, you’ll be sure to see great improvements in your writing. The best way to become a great writer is to write, so don't be afraid to put yourself out there and let your ideas flow onto the page. You have a story to tell and the world is waiting to hear it. So, start writing today and see where it takes you!

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