7 Ways to Improve Your Writing Craft

Today’s guest post is by Dario Villirilli.

To become a skilled writer you need to pour blood, sweat, and tears into your craft for years—and no amount of good advice will get you there overnight. That said, if you’re here, chances are you’ve already started your journey and you’re now looking to level up your writing skills.

Whether you write for fun or you want to make writing your career, the 7 tips in this article are sure to help you improve your craft and become a better writer.

1. Embrace outlining as your friend

It’s often said that there are two types of writers: those who over-plan and those who don’t plan at all. Regardless of which camp you belong to, know that the purpose of outlining is to help you make progress with your story, not to limit it.

When you tend to adhere too strictly to a predetermined plot, you risk being predictable and losing readers’ attention. If that’s you, next time you reach a point where you’re unsure about how things should unfold, let yourself stay in that uncertainty a bit longer and see where it leads you. You might be surprised at how the story can evolve and still fall into the overarching narrative.

If, on the other hand, you’re a pantser, consider pausing after your first 30-50 pages to channel that inspiration and draft a novel structure. You’ll find that having some beats mapped out can help you find the focus you need whenever you get stuck (plus, you’ll finish your book sooner!).

2. Infuse your experience into any story

Perhaps the most common writing advice is to write about what you know, but many writers end up taking it too literally, thinking they should write only about their direct experience. This limits creative output and reduces your writing scope to describing life events—instead of using them for inspiration.

A better framing of this old saying is to take inspiration from what you know and infuse it into the story you want to write. In other words, take small things from your everyday life and use them to spark completely new stories.

Did you train for years to become a professional swimmer? Use the relationship and conversations you had with your coach to inform a mentor character in your fantasy novel. Did you have many jobs across different sectors in your twenties? Write a story that reflects the power dynamics you observed—you get the gist!

3. Try different styles of writing

Writing mastery doesn’t just come from the time you put into it but also from how many iterations of it you go through. In this sense, it’s a good practice to write in many different formats, points of view, and genres.

Challenge yourself to write a short story in a genre you’re not familiar with, learn how to effectively communicate on social media or via a newsletter, or enter a poetry contest (even if that’s not your thing). For more self-tests, try writing for a magazine, jot down a press release, or develop a creative writing prompt?the options are endless!

Approaching writing from multiple angles will help you hone your skills and broaden your literary horizons.

4. Seek feedback from professional editors

Great writing is rarely produced in isolation: your talent can only get you so far, and no matter how good your drafts are, other people’s feedback can greatly benefit your work.

But seeking feedback isn’t always enough; unless the people editing your work are writers themselves, it won’t really improve your craft. For this reason, try to collaborate closely with other writers or, even better, find professional editors who can help you improve the overall quality of your work.

Other methods for seeking constructive criticism are joining writing groups (in-person or online) or cohort-based writing courses, or assembling a team of beta readers to give you feedback as you write your novel.

Being open to feedback will not only help you hone your craft but also help you feel more supported in an otherwise often lonely process.

5. Learn how to self-edit your manuscript

Wait, didn’t I just say you should let other people review your work? Yes, but it’s still beneficial to know how to self-edit your writing. You’ll learn to avoid making the same mistakes, minimize the work of editors, and stand out to agents and publishers.

So, how can you self-edit? The first step is to step away from your story for as long as you need to review it objectively. Next, read through it to ensure it flows and makes for a great reading experience. Pro tip: reading it aloud really helps with this! Generally speaking, it helps to eliminate filler words, balance your long and short sentences, use an active voice, and favor powerful verbs over redundant adverbs.

Finally, check that your tone, grammar, and manuscript format are consistent throughout the text, as taking care of these details will give your work more strength and authority.

6. Maximize your focus and productivity

Since we do our best work when we’re deeply and intentionally engaged with it, aim to set up your writing habits and work environment in a way that’s conducive to maximum focus and productivity.

This can mean different things for different people. For example, you could make it a habit to write a certain number of words every day (even when you don’t feel like it), minimize distractions by limiting your Internet access, or design a focus-friendly workspace (hello, houseplants!). Moreover, you could work with an accountability partner, or create some personal rituals—such as wearing a certain cologne or changing your room lighting—to get in the right mental state before each session.

Whatever works best for you, respect the craft and set yourself up for success!

7. Show your vulnerability

To make something that truly touches people’s hearts, dare to open yourself up in your stories. As the saying goes, the most personal is the most universal: people don’t connect with generic truths about human nature as much as with our real-life failures, small quirks, and conflicted thoughts.

You don’t necessarily need to write autobiographical pieces, but you can inject your personal experience into your characters and world building. When you bravely share honest thoughts and emotions from your life, you validate the feelings and experiences of the people who relate to it, making them feel seen, understood, and connected. That’s when your work truly “hits home” and impacts people’s lives.

To borrow the words of the award-winning author Neil Gaiman: “The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked … exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself—that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”

Ultimately, to become a better writer you need to find your own ways to continuously fall in love with this beautiful, messy form of art—and let it reward you in turn.

I hope these 7 pieces of advice will inspire you to take action and continue to grow in your literary journey!

Dario Villirilli is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with self-publishing resources and professionals like editors, designers, and ghostwriters.

Featured Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash.

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