Writing is a complex craft. While being a naturally gifted writer helps tremendously, talent will only get you so far.
No matter how amazing your writing is, there will always be space for improvement. But that’s what makes it so very exciting! With no ceiling to hit, you’re free to grow and hone your craft for as long as you live.
Read on to discover the best five tips for writing both fiction and non-fiction.
#1 Trust the Power of the First Draft
It is rare for the first draft to be perfect. In fact, many writers spend more time editing and rewriting than they do putting ideas down on the page.
And that’s okay! Your first draft is a rough version of the vivid stories unfolding in the vastness of your mind. Once the story is written down, you have all the time in the world to perfect it and make sure it meets your expectations.
If you dislike your first draft, don’t give up on it just yet. Think of all the potential hiding beneath the words.
In the end, it’s easier to work with something rather than nothing. So, keep going.
#2 Kill Your Darlings
Once your first draft is done, it’s time to take a step back. Redirect your thoughts to other aspects of life or start a new writing project. Let your work simmer.
Whilst taking a break for a few days is usually enough time when it comes to articles, novels need to be left alone for a while longer so that you can look at your text with a fresh pair of eyes.
After the waiting period’s over, put on your editing glasses. Be merciless. Cut down adverbs, adjectives, and words that tend to repeat throughout the text.
Your first draft was a crazy mess of passion, joy, and words coming alive before your eyes.
Your second draft is all about careful sculpting. And sometimes, this process requires you to “kill your darlings” and part with scenes that don’t bring enough value in order to create a bestseller.
RELATED READ: Five Essential Tips for Writing
#3 Build Your Iceberg of Knowledge
Unique ideas are not only fascinating to read but may also turn into groundbreaking pieces of literature. Take Virginia Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness technique or Elizabeth Acevedo’s use of slam poetry in The Poet X.
However, originality is but the peak of the iceberg. At its core, brilliant writing relies on a deep insight into the basic rules of storytelling.
If you’re writing a novel, research how the dramatic arc works (introduction, rise, climax, return or fall, catastrophe), read guides on how to divide your story into beats that keep the reader hooked (e.g., Save the Cat! Writes a Novel) and look into academic concepts that target narratology, such as Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth.
Non-fiction abides by slightly different principles, but the basic rules are the same – research the best tips for writing online articles, for instance, and follow them:
- Craft an eye-catching headline
- Use storytelling to make the text more engaging
- Follow SEO rules to expand your reach
- Deliver on your promises
he more you know, the better your work can be. Not to mention it gives you the opportunity to bring truly original ideas to the table!
#4 Writer’s Block Who?
Sometimes, writer’s block isn’t about writing at all.
It isn’t necessarily the act of writing you fear. It’s the process of sitting down, opening your laptop, and starting. In psychology, this is referred to as “activation energy” – the energy required to begin a task can be so overwhelming it becomes a hurdle that stops you in your tracks.
If you do overcome this stage, however, it is very likely you will soon get into the flow and enjoy your writing session.
Don’t feel obliged to write every single day (we are all different, after all), but bear in mind that writing as often as possible does help in alleviating your fear of starting, which in turn facilitates the forming of the habit.
Here are a few techniques you can try to start writing regularly:
Try writing sprints. Put the timer on for half an hour and get writing. You’re not allowed to stop until the timer goes off.
Apply the 2-Minute Rule. Tell yourself you will only write for two minutes, and if you want to stop after the two minutes are up, you’re free to do so. This decreases the overwhelming expectations you may put on yourself, making it easier to start. Once you do, there is a high likelihood you will keep writing.
Keep your momentum going. Set rules for yourself. You can skip one day, but not two days in a row. If you stick to this, writing will become a flexible yet powerful habit that grows stronger over time.
RELATED READ: Tips for writing a perfect first chapter
#5 Don’t Stop Experimenting
Writing is about the joy of discovery. Plant your characters in unexpected situations and follow their lead. Build entirely new worlds. Have a blast while shuffling words on the page until they finally click into place.
Working on a novel or a long text isn’t always fun, and it may even put a hamper on your mood if you only ever force yourself to focus on one project.
To become a better writer, keep the passion alive. Give yourself writing prompts. Craft short stories or poems. Take a short break from your WIP (work-in-progress) if it doesn’t spark the flame in you, and re-discover your love for writing in other ways.
Writing is hard work, but it should also be fun. Remember that.
Finally, one of the best tips for writing is to write, write, write and read, read, read.
Reading offers you incredible opportunities to analyze other authors’ writing styles and process the art of storytelling via osmosis. Writing is where you put this newfound knowledge to practice.
And in the end, practice makes perfect.