How to Be a Better Writer

  1. Write daily, even just lists and journaling.
  2. Post somewhere people can read it every week.
  3. Handwrite things sometimes — it helps to change the way you think about the writing!
  4. Read more.
  5. Do writing exercises to stretch yourself — one I love to recommend to my book coaching students is to take a story you love, whether you wrote it yourself or not, and write it from a different perspective. For example, if you wrote it in the third person, rewrite the same story in the first person — how does it change the story? What did the narrator know that the characters don’t?
  6. Try taking a free online class.
  7. Read other freelancer writer’s work.
  8. Read the news every day, even if it’s just headlines.
  9. Turn off your phone for an hour or more — go tech-free for a while.
  10. Exercise more often. It clears your brain and releases endorphins.
  11. Write whatever you dream about in a dream journal.
  12. Create challenges for yourself — whether you participate in NaNoWriMo or just set a “write 500 words every day” personal challenge.
  13. Start a blog! It helps you write and post regularly, build an audience, and so much more.
  14. Edit. Then edit again. Then walk away for a while, come back, and edit more.

15. Research topics you are interested in and learn more about them — more knowledge means better writing!

16. Create a book outline. Seeing an outline come together helps you really drill down and refine your idea and seeing a cohesive outline inspires you to write more — maybe even finally starting that book you’ve always wanted to write!

17. Keep a notebook on you or a note app on your phone and record ALL of your ideas. Even bad or weird ideas can spark something creative or interesting.

18. Go back and reread old writing and see how far you’ve come.

19. Edit older writing and repost it with your improvements. Look at how your writing has improved in the time since you wrote it and analyze what you’ve changed and why.

20. Look for “filler words” like “that,” “very,” “oftentimes,” and others you overuse.

21. Learn to accept constructive criticism. This may be joining a writing group and doing peer review, working with an editor, or simply having a few friends read your work. Allow them to be honest and take in their suggestions. Let yourself truly analyze the suggestions to see if they improve your writing instead of becoming defensive.

22. Try different writing styles. If you always write in a conversation stream of consciousness, try writing something or rewriting something with a more formal tone or as if you were teaching someone new the topic.

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23. Write something new! Have you never tried poetry? Try writing a poem! Poems do not have to rhyme and can be anything you want. Do a haiku, some prose, a sonnet, or a rhyming poem and really think about what emotions you are trying to evoke. Trying a completely different writing format forces you to look at the words differently.

24. Read more. On here twice because of how important it is. Reading expands your vocabulary, knowledge, and writing abilities.

25. Analyze your favorite writers. What do you like about them?

26. Don’t always be selling something. Write because you want to give information, tell a story, etc. Do not ONLY write to sell.

27. Reread old writing of yours or someone else and look for redundancies or inconsistencies. Continue to analyze and learn from it.

28. Focus on “active voice” writing instead of “passive voice.”

29. Learn new words! Peruse the dictionary or actively look for new words to incorporate into your vocabulary.

30. Read for fun, not just to learn.

31. Know the rules. If you fully understand the “rules” of writing, you can safely and easily break them and know what you’re doing and why.

32. Give yourself permission to not be perfect. Not every piece of writing can be a masterpiece but it can still help people or teach something or be an interesting story.

33. When writing nonfiction, academic writing, or anything that is not fiction — be honest. Honesty is incredibly important in building trust with an audience.

34. Write about the hard stuff. Don’t just write the fun or easy things you already know a lot about. Writing something real can and should make you uncomfortable sometimes.

35. Make writing a habit. Follow a writing schedule regularly until writing becomes a habit.

36. Change your environment. Light a candle, go to the library or a coffee shop, go into a different room in your home. Just change locations now and then.

37. Change your perspective. Rewrite something you’ve written before from the perspective of a different character. There are many famous examples of this and one of my favorites is “Ender’s Shadow,” which is the exact same story as in “Ender’s Game,” but written from Bean’s perspective.

38. Be more concise. Can you say the same thing in fewer words?

39. Show, don’t tell. Don’t just explain what is happening in a situation, show it and describe it in a way that allows the reader to infer it and see it. Anton Chekov, one of the greatest short story writers in history, said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

40. Go back and read your writing out loud to yourself or record yourself reading it and listen to it. You will hear it differently than when you read it silently to yourself.

41. Give examples other than your own anecdotes or stories.

42. Especially if you are writing self-help, show the reader how they can practically apply new ideas to their lives. Give actionable steps readers can take, which allows them to learn and apply, not just see how someone else did it.

43. Pull out the nuggets of knowledge. Strip down your topic to only the essentials. If you can explain it to a child then you truly understand it.

44. When creating characters in fiction, think about more than just who they are. Why are they that way? Who is their family? Where are they from? What kind of relationships have they had? Why do you feel connected to them? A reader needs to be able to root for and feel empathetic toward the character, so the character must have dimensions and layers — just like real people.

45. Start with the ending. Know where you are trying to get to before you write the first sentence.

46. Allow yourself to stop writing. If you are not feeling it or are having writer’s block or are just uninspired, it’s ok to stop writing for now and come back to it later in a better headspace.

47. Identify your audience. The tone and language of writing should be DIFFERENT for different audiences. Just as how you speak to your best friend is different from how you speak to a boss or how you speak to a salesperson.

48. Take a break. Sometimes you need to take a break and have a coffee or go for a walk. Get out of the writing space and move around.

49. Change your mood. If you are feeling negative, try smiling or doing something you enjoy to feel more positive. Your writing will change with your mood.

50. Go volunteer your time. Getting out of your own head and focusing on other people who need help will help a lot!

51. Understand that perfection is impossible. Don’t rewrite the same thing a million times when you’re happy with it already. There may be a small typo or missing comma — that’s ok!

52. Do things you love. Travel, go see friends and family, go take a class you’ve been interested in. Expand yourself and enjoy yourself.

53. Truly learn proper grammar. Again, just like in #30. if you understand the rules, you know when and how to break them and still make sense.

54. Don’t use buzzwords or lingo. Always explain what acronyms mean and don’t use internal or industry-specific jargon unless those people are your only audience.

55. Don’t only read for learning. Remember to read for pleasure and entertainment. Remember WHY you love a good story so much.

56. Create a fuller experience for the reader. Don’t just talk about the basics, build a world for your readers.

57. Cut out distractions. When it’s writing time, close out of Facebook, turn off your phone’s ringer, and focus.

58. Set a time limit. You cannot be fully concentrating on anything for hours on end without breaks. Stop after 45 minutes to an hour and do something else. Come back refreshed.

59. Set realistic goals. If you are not a full-time writer, 10,000 words per week may not be realistic or achievable. If your goals are attainable, you are more likely to actually reach them and feel good about your progress.

60. Write things YOU want to read.

61. Be specific in your writing. Don’t be vague and hope people “get it.” Don’t assume they will. Explain what you mean clearly.

62. Don’t think about judgment or reactions. Write for yourself, write what you know and understand, and the rest will come. You cannot write based on what you think others will think.

63. Put yourself out there. Understand that publishing your writing online or anywhere else is opening yourself up to judgment or criticism. Remember that you can never please everyone and just write!

64. Give examples. Similar to stories and anecdotes or showing and not telling, give real-life examples. You readers will be able to picture it better. For example, when I am explaining first, second, and third-person perspectives, I like to find examples of each from famous literature to show people different usages.

65. Link out to other writing which explains things. You do not have to constantly reinvent the wheel. There may be some writers who you think explain a concept extremely well. Summarize it and link to it.

66. Be patient. Improving any skill takes time.

67. Don’t preplan or outline too much, especially for a blog post. It is easy to overthink and overcomplicate things.

68. Write for yourself, not ONLY your audience. If you don’t enjoy it, why would the reader? This is part of being authentic.

And finally, 69. It’s not always fun. Sometimes writing is a JOB and it is important to treat it as one. This might mean changing your perspective and not just quitting if it gets tough or not writing at all if you’re feeling uninspired, but instead figuring out what you need to do to push through and write anyway.

Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.” jyssicaschwartz.com

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