These tips may seem obvious, but I know a lot of writers who’ve used them to great effect.
- Take classes: even the most seasoned writers can always learn something new. Whether it’s a university, the extension, online or a community center, having a teacher, classmates and assignments with a hard due date is a great way to stay motivated.
- Read: One writer I know doesn’t like to read other authors while she’s writing something because she doesn’t want it to “affect her style.” But as a writer, you must read the literature to which you aspire, whether it’s fiction or non. I’m of the opinion that art, or craft, builds on what came before, and nothing springs from nothing.
- Use a dictionary/thesaurus: take enough time when writing something to find the absolute perfect word, and believe me, there is one. Online tools have made it extremely easy for modern writers to be perfect spellers with amazing vocabularies.
- Ruthlessly edit: Never turn in a first or second draft of something. Take time away from your project to get a fresh feel for it. Ask yourself, is this the best this can possibly be? Trust your instinct on this. If you feel it still could be better, it most certainly can be. Wait a little while and edit again.
- Proofread: There’s nothing that screams “amateur” louder than a manuscript or piece of “printed” material with common, very fixable errors. Sorry, spell check doesn’t quite cut it here. You need to actually read your writing, over and over, to make sure it’s perfect. Even better, hire a professional proofreader (best) or trade this task with another writer (good).
- Encourage Constructive Criticism and Really Listen to It: The truth is you’re not writing for yourself, you’re writing for an audience. Feedback on your writing is invaluable for you to gauge how effective your communication is. Sometimes it smarts to hear someone’s subjective take on what you’ve done, but rarely does it result in a worse piece of writing. Tip: get more than one opinion!
- Make it a business: Most of us don’t make a living entirely out of our writing efforts, thus finding the time to actually write can be challenging. Solution? Change your mindset, and make it a business. You’ll set regular business hours when you’re at your desk, working on your project, milestones and deadlines, even if they’re only yours. Treat it as you would any job you take seriously.