If you believe that a writer is born as a writer, you might want to think again. When I read my work from a few years ago, I can easily spot a bunch of mistakes. I have learnt how to avoid them only with time. Becoming an efficient writer takes more than just the will of becoming a writer.
Based on observations and my experiences, here are some tips that will help you to write more effectively.
1. Read Every Damn Day
Pick up a fiction or non-fiction book (based on your interests) and read at least 40-50 pages every day. Every writer must be a reader to survive amongst words. If you skip the reading part, you’re starving yourself as a writer. However, don’t just read sitting in the reader’s seat. Read as a writer and recognize different writing styles. Reading is also an excellent way to boost your vocabulary and get a good hold on grammar.
- Pick up a literary classic
- Read a non-fiction book that will improve a skill
- Subscribe to newsletters
- Keep a note of writing styles
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King
2. Brush Up On Your Grammar Skills
Grammar is the salt and pepper of writing. Picture this – you might be real close to creating the best dish of your life, but you messed up the basics – you added no salt. You can’t cook delicious food without knowing what goes into it. To sound like a professional writer, it is important to be a grammar geek.
- Keep a note of sentence structures, diction and punctuation
- Read grammar books, opinionated articles or take a course online
“Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.” – Jeffrey Gitomer
3. Don’t Copy Someone Else’s Style
Being inspired by someone else’s work is absolutely great but don’t ever copy their style. Every writer has a unique voice, and that’s what helps them stand out amongst so many voices. If you’re going to ‘try’ to write like someone else, you will never attain your best work. It will always be someone else’s work.
You might take some time to find your own voice. However, it is there. You just need to be patient to realise it fully.
“The first sign of disintegration — in a writer — is that the writing loses the unique stamp of his/her character, & loses its inner light.”- Ted Hughes
4. Always Have Something To Say
You might want to write a sentence, a paragraph or probably a full book. But, don’t do it unless you don’t have something to tell your reader. It is a bad idea to write without having a message and will probably put your reader off. Know what you’re going to say and say it in the best way possible. Here’s the secret – A good idea sounds like a great idea if explained well.
“Unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it.” – Charles Bukowski
5. Become Your Own Editor
Unfortunately, not everyone can afford an editor. Hence, it’s a good idea to become your own editor. Take every sentence one by one and see if you can fix something about it. Read your sentences loudly and see if they make any sense. Look for the choice of words, sentence structures, etc. Never ever settle for the first draft. Your first draft is good. But remember, you can always make it better.
- Read your work 2-3 times purely as a reader and see what you get out of it
- Be a sentence surgeon and fix it if something seems wrong
- Never publish your first draft
- Proofread and revise until you’re fully satisfied
“The first draft of everything is shit.” -Ernest Hemingway
6. Choice of Words
The choice of words makes a lot of difference. Avoid jargons wherever you can but use them where you should. Based on your audience, play with diction. Avoid using the words that you don’t fully comprehend. Don’t go for cliché terms. Expand your vocabulary and use new words regularly.
- Be careful with jargons
- Keep in mind the subtle nuances between similar words
- Use at least 5 new words every day
- Avoid words such as – very, actually, so, really, etc
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov
7. Say No to Long and Loose Sentences
Write this somewhere or memorize it or just get a tattoo. No sentence should be longer than 18-20 words. Remember – every long sentence can be divided into two short sentences. The problem with a long sentence is that it loses its meaning. The reader can’t find a connection between the subject and the predicate. Use a comma splice ONLY when it is needed. It is advised to use conjunctions. One sentence should only do one thing at a time.
- Avoid comma splices until they’re truly needed
- Use conjunctions to break independent clauses
- One sentence should do only thing at a time
- Check for clarity
“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”
8. Delete Unnecessary Words
Unnecessary words are the words that don’t do any good to a sentence. They don’t have a significant purpose. These extra words will make your writing come across as immature. If you want to explain an idea, use fewer words. It does wonders. For example,
- She met me on a daily basis
- During the time of winter
- He told me that it was bad
- The whole country rejoiced
Makes it better, isn’t it?
“Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!” — Joyce Carol Oates
9. Never Stop Writing
This goes unsaid. Never stop writing. You might not want to write regularly but make sure there is no ‘stop’. Accept yourself as a writer and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do this. Practice makes everything better. Write. Write because you should.
“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
Hope these tips helped you. Feel free to drop a comment if you have any questions!