No matter what stage your writing career is at, nearly every writer agrees that you can always become better at writing.
Good writing doesn’t happen by accident. Most successful writers working today continue to practice and improve their writing skills as their career progresses.
You’re never “finished” learning how to be good at writing.
But on the other hand, you don’t need to have it all figured out before you become a professional writer. Don’t think that your writing needs to be at a certain level before you can start making a living from writing.
As you’re reading this page, we’re pretty confident you already know the basics of writing. The next step is to start finding paid writing work, and refining your skills from there.
The following ten tips will help you become better at writing as you build your writing career.
1. Be Clear on What You’re Writing
How can you create a good piece of writing if you’re not sure what you need to write?
Whether you’re writing a formal project for a client, or writing something for fun, make sure you determine exactly what you’ll be writing before you get started on any writing project.
Make sure you review the particulars of your project with your client. What’s the expected length or word count? What tone of voice does your client want you to use? What calls to action do you need to include?
And if you’re working on something for yourself, such as a novel or other passion project, consider similar questions for yourself.
What do you hope to achieve with your piece of writing? Roughly how long should it be? What tone of voice is most appropriate? Do you want to persuade people to do something, or simply entertain?
Answering questions like these up front can help keep your project on track and prevent any confusion down the road.
2. Know Your Audience
It’s vital to know who’s going to be reading your completed project.
This step might seem easy to skip, but not understanding your readers can have far-reaching effects on your final product.
For example, a piece of writing aimed at a general audience might include more explanation and details about a subject to help guide the reader through it. Getting too technical right away would likely be confusing.
But if you’re writing for an audience who is already familiar with the topic, you can take a more direct approach in your copy. In this case, having too much detail would slow down the pace and deter the reader.
Whatever you write, it needs to be tailored to your intended audience.
Your client will often be able to tell you who their target audience is. If not, you can ask them some simple questions about who they want to reach, or what type of customer they want to attract. For example:
- Is the target audience of a certain age, gender, or other demographic?
- Why would they be reading what you’ve written – what do they want to learn, or what problems are they trying to solve?
- How much do they know about the subject? Are they experts or beginners?
- What type of life circumstances might they have? For example, do they have a family, are they business owners, or are they struggling with a health problem?
These questions are important to consider for your personal writing as well.
The better you know the people you’re trying to speak to, the better your writing will be.
3. Make an Outline
Many writers debate whether it’s better to plan a piece of writing before you get started, or approach it more spontaneously.
These writing methods are sometimes called planning versus pantsing (writing by the seat of your pants).
If you’ve given both approaches a try and you’ve found that writing spontaneously is best for you, by all means, do what works for you.
But if you haven’t tried planning your projects ahead of time, we highly recommend you give it a fair attempt.
Creating an outline for your writing project can help streamline the whole writing process for a few reasons.
It will help you organize your ideas and clarify your main points ahead of time. It’s much easier to change and move things around at the start of a project, compared to going back and rewriting something that doesn’t work.
An outline can also help you to stay on topic and create a more focused piece of writing, which makes your final product much easier to read.
And most importantly, outlining will save time because it gives you a roadmap for the whole project. Instead of wasting time trying to figure out what comes next, you can focus on writing to the best of your abilities.
Try the following steps to create an outline for your next project:
Step 1: Brainstorm all the main points you’d like to make
If you’re writing a “how to” article, you can write down all the main steps involved in the process you’re explaining. Or if you’re writing a novel, you can write down all the key plot elements you want to include.
Step 2: Organize your list of key points
Decide the best order for your main concepts. For example, what would be the most logical steps for your “how to” process? Or what would be the most effective way to design your novel’s plot?
Step 3: Format your list
Organize all your points into a numbered or bulleted list. Some of your points may stand alone. But you might realize that others are related and can be used as support for the main points.
You don’t need extreme detail here. A simple structure like this can work well:
- Main point
- Main sub-point
- Smaller sub-point
Taking these steps to organize your ideas and create an outline before you start writing is a great way to ensure the quality of your finished project.
4. Keep Your Writing Concise
Good writing gets to the point as quickly as possible.
Even if you’re writing poetry or prose for pure entertainment, you still want to express your meaning in as few words as possible. Otherwise, you’re going to lose your reader.
These are a few ways to keep your writing concise:
Step 1: Keep sentences short and to the point
Long sentences often contain two or more smaller thoughts that only confuse the reader. Break up long sentences into smaller ones so each thought is clear.
Step 2: Cut out excess words
Omit unnecessary qualifiers like really, just, and pretty. Phrases like these don’t add anything helpful to the sentence’s meaning.
Step 3: Use simple language whenever possible
Choose the simplest words you can think of for any given scenario. A few short sentences will often say more than a paragraph of wordiness.
Keeping your writing focused and concise makes it easier to read and more enjoyable for your reader.
For more tips, you can check out Jen Steven’s ideas on how to make your writing easy to read here.
5. Allow Time for Editing
No matter how much writing experience you have, you’re going to make mistakes.
It’s unrealistic to expect that your first draft will be perfect, so it’s important to schedule time for editing and revising your writing project afterwards.
Start by taking another look at the bigger picture of your project. Does it still follow a logical and engaging sequence, like you decided in your outline? Or does something need to be changed?
Next, move on to a final proofreading of the text itself. Check that you’ve kept your sentences and paragraphs fairly short and concise, which improves readability. Make sure the language you’ve used is clear and easy to understand. And read your copy closely for any grammatical or syntax errors.
Another useful technique is to read your copy out loud. This can highlight issues you’ve missed visually.
By allowing time for editing, you can easily correct mistakes before you send your project to your client or publisher. This will prevent any embarrassing mistakes and help improve the overall quality of your writing.
6. Get a Second Opinion (Or Many)
Once you’ve edited and finished your piece of writing, it’s highly recommended to share it with someone else and get their feedback.
It’s good if you know other writers who can give you a second opinion on your work. But friends and family members will often have useful feedback as well.
Whatever another person tells you, remember that it’s just a suggestion. You can take it into consideration, but you don’t have to change your writing if a suggestion doesn’t seem right to you.
But this is an excellent opportunity to see how actual readers will respond to your writing. Were they confused in a certain area? Did the tone of voice bother them? What did they like the most?
These are valuable insights that you can only learn by sharing your work with others and being open to receiving honest feedback.
7. Write Every Day
You’ve likely heard this advice before. And we know it can put off some writers because it sounds like such a commitment.
But it can actually be quite easy.
You don’t have to push yourself to reach a lofty word count every day. Instead, simply make sure you write something – anything – each day. It could be an email to a friend, a note to your partner, or a short piece of a larger writing project.
Jerry Seinfeld attributes part of his success to his habit of writing every day. You can read about his “Don’t Break the Chain” daily writing method here.
However you decide to do it, getting in the habit of writing every day can be a big step in moving your writing skills forward.
8. Read Widely
If you’re interested in writing, there’s a good chance you’re already an avid reader.
And this is a good thing. Reading is one of the best ways to become a better writer.
By reading widely, you expose yourself to new ideas and different styles of writing. Seeing the ways that different authors approach a piece of writing can inspire you in your own work.
You also might discover some interesting things about your niche or field of interest that you can reference in future projects.
And make sure you don’t limit yourself to your usual reading list. Try including a range of different reading materials, from news reports, to novels, to scientific journals.
These will all give you a rich cross-section of written material to learn from.
9. Practice Freewriting
Freewriting is an exercise where you continue writing without stopping for a certain period of time.
You can write an informal journal entry for yourself, or freewrite a section of a larger project.
Whatever you choose to write, the key to freewriting is to let yourself write without any self-editing. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling, just write as fast as possible without stopping. You can do this by hand or on a keyboard.
It’s helpful to set a timer for your freewriting period so you don’t worry about when you need to stop. You can freewrite for any amount of time you want, but 15 to 20 minutes is a good start.
Once your freewriting session is over, take a few minutes to review what you’ve written. If you want to use it for a writing project, you can start editing it from here. Or you can just view it as an exercise that doesn’t require any further action.
You’ll find that by taking the pressure off yourself and just writing, your natural voice will come through and you’ll overcome any writer’s block.
Heather Robson has more suggestions for improving your writing speed with freewriting here.
10. Get Published
One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable for meeting your writing goals is to have deadlines.
And publishing your work comes with firm deadlines that you’ll need to meet.
When a client or publisher expects you to deliver a final written project by a certain date, it’s up to you to make sure you have that project completed to a high standard before you submit it.
This can help keep you motivated, focused, and working hard on your projects.
So, whether you’re writing a traditional book or looking for freelance writing clients, get out there and show off your work!
There’s not an exact formula for how to become a better writer.
You will naturally improve your writing skills over time as your writing career progresses.
In this article, we’ve covered some essential tips on how you can speed up and deepen the process of becoming a better writer.
You may also want to consider joining the Barefoot Writer Club. As part of our community, you’ll receive additional tips and support for building the writing career you’ve always wanted.