3 Foolproof Ways to Improve Your Writing

Photo by John-Mark Kuznietsov. https://unsplash.com/@mrrrk_smith

If you’re like me, chances are you’re constantly looking to do more, learn more, and be better at your craft. We spend a lot of time searching for shortcuts too — easy ways to accomplish the same amount of work — versus putting our noses to the grindstone and pushing it out.

Before you click away, remember that everyone does this. (If not, you’re probably lying.) It’s natural to want to search for ‘better’, and it’s part of what has driven human progress throughout history. If we didn’t want to be better, we’d probably be satisfied with telegrams instead of text messages, radio programs versus Netflix, and leeches over medication.

With that in mind, you can do a lot of digging to find ways to improve your writing. There are classes, podcasts, YouTube videos, and more — all of which are good — but, in the end, there are three basic methods to improve your writing that don’t require spending any money.

1. Write More.

Never discount the phrase “practice makes perfect.” I like to remind myself that, in all things, practice at least makes better — and better is good.

This is always my number one piece of advice for writers. It’s ironic the number of people I encounter who want to write — they want to improve, to get published, to be a success — and yet they don’t take regular time out of their days to improve their craft.

Athletes don’t skip training days and focus just on the performance. If they didn’t practice between games, training their bodies and their skills, it wouldn’t matter how hard they worked at the game. They dedicate hours per day to improvement, yet somehow this practice often gets dropped by the rest of society.

The simple fact is if you want to improve at something — whether that’s writing or basketball or knitting — you have to do it more.

2. Do Your Research.

It always baffles me when people read my books and tell me, “Wow. It’s so good. Everything is so detailed!”

Well, yes. I did my research.

It’s not good enough to write about what you know (unless, of course, you’re an astrophysicist leading the charge into new and exciting scientific frontiers) because — chances are — what you know isn’t everything.

Even if you’re writing about personal experiences, it’s still a good practice to do a little bit of research. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety in the past, but when I wrote a character with anxiety I still spent several hours digging into anxiety, how it impacts different people, treatment options, and more.

A well-researched essay, article, or book — whether fiction or not — stands out from the crowd. Details enrich writing, and they separate the professionals from the amateurs.

Remember: you’re only ever seeing one side of the story. Your side. If you want to write something memorable, something that other people will connect to, it’s imperative to seek out other sides of the story even if you don’t include them in your writing.

3. Read.

Stephen King put it best.

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

It’s frequently said that the best writers are the most voracious readers and for good reason. Reading stimulates the brain, improves your memory, expands your vocabulary, and offers many more benefits.

You should be reading everything you can get your hands on — both in your genre/area of expertise and out of it — because that’s the best way to know what’s out there, improve your writing skills, and to grow as both an individual and a writer.

If you don’t have time to do these things, frankly, make time. Excellence in any craft takes sacrifice, and — if you want to be a writer, if you truly aspire to be better — you will do what is necessary to make these things work.

It might mean waking up before 7 AM to get in your daily writing time or giving up Netflix in favor of a book, but that’s life.

If you want something bad enough, you’ll work for it.