Want to know how to be a better writer? Writing is one of the most challenging yet most rewarding passions you can undertake. Here are some tips from great writers on how to write better.
How to Be a Better Writer: 11 Words of Wisdom from Some of the Best Writers
1. “Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.” — Lev Grossman
As a writer, you’ll encounter different, and sometimes, seemingly conflicting advice, such as:
- “Write only what you know” vs. “Don’t be afraid to write what you don’t know”
- “Avoid using adverbs and passive voice”
- “Write how you speak”
Novelist Lev Grossman recommends that writers try to silence the noise and take writing advice with a grain of salt. Write according to your style and what you actually want to write.
Ultimately, writing is a personal craft, so it’s up to you to decide how you’ll go about it.
2. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” — Jack London
Learning how to be a better writer isn’t just waiting for an idea to drop, then you’ll suddenly be able to write a masterpiece. It also requires self-discipline and perseverance just like learning other skills.
To form the habit of writing, just write. Even if it’s just a mishmash of things you formed in your head without anything coherent to it, having some words on paper is better than nothing at all.
3. “The first draft of everything is sh*t.” — Ernest Hemingway
Don’t expect a masterpiece from Day 1. Once you finish your first draft, sleep on it, and read it again with a fresh pair of eyes.
Ask a friend or a fellow writer to read your piece and give feedback on your work. They may offer some points for improvement you may not have noticed before.
There’s nothing wrong with revising your work after your first draft because it’ll only get better with revisions. However, know when enough is enough and don’t fall into the trap of overthinking to achieve perfection.
4. “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that.” — Stephen King
There’s a reason why a lot of good writers are also voracious readers. If you don’t read books, you wouldn’t know how good prose flows on a page.
Books also open you to other worlds and viewpoints, so don’t be afraid to read genres you don’t usually go for. Whether you want to learn how to be a better creative writer or you want to write non-fiction, it pays to read and learn from other great writers.
5. “Good writing is about being honest.”— James Altucher
According to author James Altucher, if you want to bring value to others as a writer, be honest. It may seem like simple advice but not everyone writes about what they think.
Reveal the secret that everybody’s thinking but won’t say. Some may not be happy about it, but this is how you bring value to others by writing.
6. “Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious *ss.” — David Ogilvy
Jargon has its place, especially if you write for a specific audience. In most cases, it’s much better to use simpler words that express what you want to say using words anyone can understand.
Learning how to be a better writer isn’t about who can use “big words”. It’s tailoring what you write to the person you’re writing for.
7. “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” — Harper Lee
Everyone and their mother have something to say about your writing. If you take everything other people say personally, you won’t get any writing done, and you’ll just be hiding in a cave for the rest of your life.
When someone gives feedback, stop and evaluate what they’re trying to say instead of just reacting right away. Acknowledge it, express gratitude for taking the time to say something, and move forward with what you want to do with it.
8. “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath
When you learn how to be a better writer, you may find yourself doubting your work, talent, and purpose. Acknowledge that this happens and, wrestling with them is a part of being a writer.
The worst thing you can do about it is to give up and stop writing. Keep doing what you need to do and just write.
Trust yourself, and more importantly, trust the process. Surround yourself with people who can help you do just that.
9. “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.” — Elmore Leonard
Grammar and style are important, especially if you’re a non-fiction writer. Fiction writers, however, have a bit more leeway when it comes to this.
In some cases, you may need to bend some rules to serve your story, and that’s okay. Just be intentional and consistent about it so it looks like a stylistic choice rather than an error.
10. “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” — Mark Twain
Make sure every word counts, and not used as your means to increase your word count. Mark Twain’s quote is a great test in writing with intent.
Not only do filler words make things unnecessarily wordy, but your editor will likely cut it out anyway.
11. “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” — Louis L’Amour
Want to know how to be better at writing? Just write!
The hardest part of the writing process is starting it, but once you do, you can rely on momentum to continue. Don’t worry if it’s not a masterpiece — by putting some words on a page, you’re much further off than many people.
Learning how to be a better writer taps on your creative site and keeps your imagination running. With these tips from famous writers, you’re now on track to creating written words you can be proud of.
What are other tips you know about how to be better in writing? Share them in the comments section below!