How To Improve Your Writing In Six Steps
This will work no matter what you’re writing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a good, great, or self-loathing writer.
You can become a better writer.
I’ve written all kinds of stuff over the years — from blog posts to business proposals, screenplays to wedding vows, and even a newsletter For The Interested.
What I’ve learned from these varied writing experiences is that following a few simple steps will ALWAYS improve the quality of whatever you write.
Here they are…
Step 1: Pay attention.
“The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” — Henry Miller
Writing begins way before you write.
The first step to better writing is to develop a habit of noticing things and to pay attention to the world around you on a daily basis.
Observe your surroundings, contemplate your interactions with people, and incorporate a wide array of influences into your life.
The places you go, people you meet, things you do, media you consume, and experiences you have are all assets in Your writing arsenal. Make an effort to explore and contemplate as much as possible.
Experience is the foundation of great writing and the more you acquire, the more you have to draw on.
Step 2: Generate ideas.
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” — Henry Ford
Idea generation is not the same thing as writing.
Idea generation is the process of coming up with concepts, while writing is the process of communicating those concepts.
They’re related, but different.
That’s why it’s helpful to set aside time specifically to generate ideas.
There are countless ways to do so — brainstorm, challenge yourself to come up with 50 ideas, bounce ideas off other people, or whatever works for you to juice your creativity.
But the communication of these ideas (the writing) should be separated from the origination of them.
Doing so frees you up to discover more and better ideas than you otherwise might.
And once you decide which ideas to pursue, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Step 3: Flesh out an idea.
“If you do enough planning before you start to work, there’s no way you can have writer’s block.” — R. L. Stine
Once you choose an idea or two to explore in your writing, the next step is to flesh out those ideas.
This is a spin on the idea generation phase, but this time tailored to explore deeper the ideas you chose to focus on.
Dig into them, think through what you want to say about them, and how you want to say it.
This can also be considered your outline phase — it’s the step where you lay out what you’re ultimately going to write and how you’re going to write it.
Step 4: Write.
“Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.” — Nicholas Sparks
Ahh…the moment we’ve been waiting for — or dreading.
Writing — especially a first draft of something — is a completely different skill and mindset than idea generation and editing (more on that in a minute).
No matter how gifted you are as a writer, your first draft of anything is going to be flawed.
It won’t be your best and there’s a good chance you’re going to hate those first words you spit out on the page.
Because no matter how much you love to write, the initial act of writing is loaded with negative reinforcement.
You struggle to come up with the exact right words to express your ideas and inevitably get frustrated and discouraged when your creation falls short of your intention.
While following the first three steps I outlined above prior to writing will make your first draft infinitely better than it otherwise might have been, it won’t make it perfect and won’t protect you from negative feelings about your work.
But, here’s the good news — this is the only step in the writing process that will feel this bad.
Because once you get past the first draft, the rest of your work will improve what you’ve written. It will deliver positive reinforcement.
Keep that in mind to motivate yourself to push through this step.
Get something down on paper and try not to judge your work too harshly.
Step 5: Edit.
“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.” — Stephen King
While the writing phase is often rooted in negative reinforcement, editing is the opposite — it’s filled with positive momentum.
Because every edit you make improves your work and gets you closer to the vision you have for your creation.
Editing is a completely different skill than writing so it’s important to treat it as such. If you edit as you write, you’ll just slow yourself down, confuse yourself, and decrease the likelihood you ever finish the draft.
Editing is its own separate step for a reason.
And arguably, it’s the most crucial one to the ultimate success of your writing.
Step 6: Publish.
“Once you publish a book, it is out of your control. You cannot dictate how people read it.” — Margaret Atwood
The writing and editing may be done, but there’s still one more hurdle to conquer.
It’s time to publish. To share your writing with others.
It’s important to recognize this is its own unique step and can be a difficult one — that’s why there are so many projects we’re forever “writing” and never publishing.
Publishing forces you to stare down your insecurities and summon the courage to put your creation into the world. You have to do this despite knowing it may be judged, ignored, or celebrated.
It’s hard, but remind yourself why you wrote this thing in the first place and reassure yourself that no matter what comes of it, you’ll be fine.
Publishing is a big deal and takes bravery.
By recognizing it as such, you give yourself credit for the accomplishment that it is — and give others the opportunity to benefit from your creation.
Speaking of which…it’s time for me to hit publish on this post.
I hope you benefit from it.
If you enjoyed this post, check out For The Interested.
It’s for you.