It’s a struggle. Anything worthwhile is going to be a struggle and if you enjoy writing beyond simply recreation, improving your writing is an important part of the process. Or maybe it is just a hobby. Maybe you want to improve only for yourself and that is fine too. Whatever your reasons, here are some ways you can improve your own writing.
Anything will do, but the more “literary” it is, the more literary your writing will become. When you’re reading, whether you realize it or not, you’re getting a feeling for writing, what sounds good, what grammar works, etc. Like with anything, if you study the masters some of their mastery will inspire you and (hopefully) rub off on you as well.
If you’re a reader I likely fly have to remind you to use your library, but I will anyway just in case: Use your library. It has a huge variety of different genres at your disposal for free. No need to spend a lot of money buying your books. If you’re someone who prefers an e-reader, first of all, shame on you, send of all, many libraries are able to lend you digital copies of many books. Basically, if you aren’t surrounded by books, you have no excuse.
For the past 8 or 9 years I’ve been using a Goodreads account (it’s free) to keep track of and rate books I’ve read, and also keep track of and find books I want to read. I’ve found it very helpful (they have an app too) and it’s a little satisfying to see the amount of books I’ve read put into a number.
You don’t become better at baseball without playing baseball, right?
You don’t get better at anything without practice. The same goes for writing. The more you write the more you’ll understand its rules. Emulating your favorite authors can help you internalize the writing skills that have made them the great writers they are. Don’t worry about plagiarizing their style. You may think you’re writing sounds exactly like Joyce, but trust me, it doesn’t.
As I mentioned in The Inevitable Slump, carrying around a notebook to capture ideas, thoughts or use when you find yourself with some downtime can do wonders for helping you write. The more writing you can do, the more your writing will improve. You don’t need a special, fancy notebook to get the job done. Spiral notebooks for 80 cents work just as well as leather bound ones.
One of the most straightforward ways is to go to college for it like I did. However, you don’t have to go to college to take college classes and many schools have creative writing classes. However, if that doesn’t work for you, there are other resources. Libraries often have clubs and programs foot such a purpose and sometimes your local rec center may have classes too. Also with computers at your disposal, there are all kinds of resources for budding authors: blogs (cough cough), forums, and more formal online classes are just a Google search away.
Here’s a list of some online classes you can take, both free and paid, although these are certainly not the only ones available. Do some research in your area and you’ll find local classes.
Get Your Work Reviewed
Personally, I’ve always preferred having my work reviewed by someone I know. One friend, in particular, has been very helpful this way. Her enthusiasm has always encouraged me to continue writing and improving and she was sure to give me constructive criticism without pulling punches. If you can find a friend like this, hold on to them. I’m also a bit of an untrusting person so it always felt safer to me to show someone I trusted rather than a stranger. I’ve never heard any horror stories about showing work to a stranger, but I’m paranoid. So maybe don’t be like me.
Besides friends, the internet is again a useful resource. There are forums all over the place dedicated to people who want criticism for their work and are willing to do the same for others. Be mindful that people are trying to help you and not just put down your work. Take criticism with grace and remember that you asked for help improving your writing and not just thoughtless praise. If someone has a critique of your work, listen to them, chances are others will have similar critiques. Author Maggie Stiefvater endorses this group for anyone looking for a writing partner. There are other places all over the internet with people just like you looking for someone to critique their work. Do some research and you can find one that works best for you.
Sources to Visit