February 11, 2009

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Writing

An article I read about improving your life started me thinking about similar easy ways to improve your writing.

1. Start Small.

Big projects can sometimes be overwhelming. Break it into bite-size pieces. I'm guilty of stressing over not writing the 20 pages a week I'd planned. Setting goals smaller, say 3 pages a day, will get near the same results, with less stress. And if you don't get the exact amount done, don't beat yourself up. Even one paragraph or page is one more than you had before, and 500 or so words closer to your final word count.

2. Believe in Yourself

A bad review can hurt. But that inner critic who tries to hold you back and tear down your efforts (you're a lousy writer, you'll never get anywhere, why are you wasting your time?...) can be worse. Believe in you. Think on what you've accomplished and move forward. One rejection is just that. It's not the end. Don't let rejection stalk you. Send that story or project to another publication and move on to the next one. Having at least a few stories circulating (some say 10 or 12 if you can) will prevent you from obsessing over one.

3. Learn From Others

Success comes from listening to others who have already been there. Check out the experiences of other writers in your genre. Study the works of writers you admire to see how they did it. No matter how many years you've been writing, there is always something new to learn.

4. Review Yourself.

A little self-evaluation can be good to gauge where you are in your writing goals and progress. Be honest; don't be afraid to point out your shortcomings, but also decide on how to improve them. Maybe you've only been published in lower paying markets and are afraid to move to the next level. Pick a market you haven't written for; study the content, and work on a story to submit. Becoming a better writer doesn't mean treading water; test the waters in new markets.

5. Make Goals.

Goals keep you from stagnating, but make them reasonable. Start with one goal, like planning to get published in a new magazine in your genre, or working on a story in a different genre or field. When that goal is accomplished, make a new goal. Keep moving forward and don't stress over how long achieving that goal may take. It isn't a race. Work at the pace you feel comfortable with.

6. Seize the Day!

Swallow your fears. Some opportunities only come once. Don't be afraid to take a chance. You never know where it will lead.

7. Don't Fear Mistakes.

You'll make mistakes; you'll write less than stellar stories. We all have. It's one mistake. Even if you make the same mistake, it's not the end of the world. Learn from them. Every mistake only makes you stronger.

8. Don't Be a Victim

Self-pity leads to depression, which leads to inactivity, self-doubt and can be a vicious spiral that robs you of your energy and happiness. No matter your circumstances, there is no reason to sit still and be unproductive. Don't make excuses, do something. There are tons of free resources available. Use the Internet and computers at the library. See if there is a niche in your community where you can volunteer or provide a service. See #5.

9. Enjoy Yourself

We all can't be Rockefellers or live like them. Always thinking the grass is greener on the other side will never make you satisfied. Look closer and you'll find crabgrass and weeds there, too. Enjoy your faith, friends, family, pets, and hobbies. Shut off the computer. Make time to exercise and have some fun. You'll feel better and be more productive.

10. Think Positive.

It takes less energy to think positive, plus it'll add more to your life and your writing.

** Have any favorite tips or lifestyle changes you've made to improve your writing? Please share!


  1. Great tips, Christine. It's always good to be reminded of what comes first, and second...

  2. You have some good tips up there, Christine. I was going to add 'try something new' but I think you covered it in #5!
    Deb :-)

  3. Tip : Learn the craft. You wouldn't try to build a table unless you learned some carpentry.

    Thanks Christine!

  4. Excellent advice and something I need to come back to and read again as I get very discouraged that I am not accomplishing very much in any of the various ways I spend my time! I was a journalism major and except for a few local newspapers, have not used that very much and would love to pursue creative writing.

    Mini Leaps and Bounds


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