5 Tips That Will Make You A Better Writer
Anyone who has ever tried to put their thoughts down on paper knows that writing is hard. Anyone who has tried to write for an audience knows that writing well is even harder. And writing without making mistakes? That’s just impossible. Trust me. I edit a lot of the premium novels on Tapas and see them all the time. And, honestly, even though I now make my living editing other people’s work, I still catch typos and weird phrasing in my own writing. It’s totally normal. However, there are lots of simple ways that you can easily improve your writing and really make it stand out.
- Read! This is the best advice anyone can ever give you when it comes to improving your writing. Read books. Read news articles on your phone. Read amazing fanfic by writers who are so good they make you wanna quit. Read tweets and Tumblr posts and the backs of cereal boxes. Read the label on your shampoo. Why? Because every sentence you read improves your vocabulary and gives you a better grasp of how written English works. Reading more helps us understand the conventions of language, from how to properly use a semicolon to how to use certain words. Read a little more, especially stuff that has been professionally published, and you’ll start seeing a huge difference in how you write things.
- Google is your friend. Everyone says it, but we seriously have knowledge at our fingertips pretty much every second of the day now. I’m just old enough to remember watching my parents pull out big, heavy dictionaries when we came across a word we didn’t understand during my bedtime reading as a kid. If you’re not sure how to spell a word, google it! If you know how to spell a word but you’re not sure how it’s supposed to be used in a sentence, look it up! There’s a ton of online dictionaries that will show you examples of how words are supposed to be used, so you’ll never get caught using words you’re not completely sure about in the wrong context again.
- Use the words you mean to use. I used to get writing advice when I was younger telling me to use the prettiest, longest words I could find. Why say “said” when you could use “roared”? Why use “between” when I could use “amidst”? It was a great way to encourage me to expand my vocabulary and learn how to use new words. However, it also meant that I was often trying so hard to make my writing more complicated that I wasn’t getting my point across properly. There’s something to be said for simplicity. It is 100% okay to just write “said.” In fact, if you’re using a different word in place of “said” after every sentence when you don’t need to, your writing can come off as confusing. If you want to say, “She walked to school slowly,” that’s just fine. There is nothing wrong with keeping things simple when that’s what you want to say. Of course, when you need to get more specific or complicated, feel free. But never feel like every sentence has to stand out.
- Make sure every character and scene belongs in your story. One of the most important parts of writing a story is knowing what’s important. Sometimes, though, we get kind of lost. I’ve run into so many stories that are totally great… until a side plot is introduced that ends up taking way too much time away from the main point of the story. Sometimes the side plot is really interesting, but it still feels like a distraction. If you feel like you have too many characters or a side plot that isn’t really helping your main narrative along, sometimes it’s best to cut them out of your story. When side plots get too big and your cast of characters gets too numerous, it can make your story confusing or make readers feel like it’s taking too long to get back to the main point. Cutting unnecessary parts out of your story is hard, but it’s worth it and will make your story better. You can always save those ideas and characters for another story!
- If you’re going to write a diverse cast (and why wouldn’t you?), do your research. The push for diversity in literature is exciting and is getting writers to try out characters and stories that they never would have thought to write otherwise. While that’s great, it’s also important to remember that creating a diverse cast of characters usually means you’re going to have to do some research. When you’re writing about people who are different from you, there’s a lot of stuff you’re going to miss or get wrong if you don’t do some googling, some reading at your local library, or ask people from that group questions that you have. Having a diverse cast doesn’t mean a whole lot if you’re just using stereotypes or your best guesses. If you’re going to make the effort to be inclusive, it’s important to do it right.
These are all simple suggestions, but you’d be surprised at how much of a difference they’ll make as you write.
Do you have any advice on how to improve your writing? Let us know in the comments and we’ll collect the best ones for another post!
-Serena McNair, Content Operations Manager, and the Tapas Team