“I don’t write well. I want to learn how to write. But I don’t know where to start.”
If this is your first thought, then you are already on the right track. Writing is a skill that takes time to develop and improve but there are plenty of ways.
Here are three of the first steps you can take.
1. Read more, write more
Let me give you a weird example of how and why this works.
My 13-year-old son is a gamer. I’m not. When I sit with him, trying to spend some father-son quality time on his territory, and play some Call of Duty with him — I probably suck more at first-person shooter games than anything in the world — one thing amazes me the most: his speed of perception.
I could never dream of moving as fast and as agile as he can make his little avatar jump, run, crouch and just obliterate the opposing team in the world’s most popular shooting game. Let alone shoot and kill as many enemies as he can. Not even by a long shot. Pun intended.
Why? It takes me just so much time and energy to simply perceive in the game. What all is going on; where am I, what are my bearings? Who is a teammate, who is an enemy? What is that extra information displayed in the screen; the text in the middle and on the bottom, a map on top?
You want to know how that difference in in-game perceptual speed between me and my son came to be?
By him watching a lot — and I mean a lot — of gameplay by YouTube gamers online when he was younger. I never understood why he’d want to spend so much time watching other people play, as many kids from his generation had a tendency to do.
Now I get it. His watching other, (more advanced) gamers play videogames, is the same as you and me watching other writers write. In other words: it’s the same as us reading.
Because he wanted to become a better gamer, he automatically trained his brain to perceive at lightning speed and to almost fully subconsciously know what to do and how to react in certain situations in that environment.
When we want to improve our writing, reading is how we train our brain. Reading is how we teach our subconscious and our natural reflexes to understand automatically what works, what doesn’t work; what are the rules and how the rules can be broken; what to do, and what not to do. In our own environment: the blank page.
Read more, write more. And better.
2. Cut down the use of adverbs and adjectives (and words in general)
Writing is personal. And what constitutes quality writing has everything to do with your objectives: the degree to which you accomplish what you set out to accomplish with your writing, is the degree to which your writing efforts were successful.
Read more about effective writing and strategic storytelling goal setting, here.
However, there are a few tricks you can use to instantly improve your writing skills — not objectively, but subjectively for most people.
Here are three of those. All of these have to do with helping your reader have a smoother, faster read.
And most of the time, especially if you’re writing for an online audience: speed is what they need.
“An adverb is a word that modifies (describes) a verb (he sings loudly), an adjective (very tall), another adverb (ended too quickly), or even a whole sentence (Fortunately, I had brought an umbrella). Adverbs often end in -ly, but some (such as fast) look exactly the same as their adjective counterparts.”
Although adverbs clearly have a function, many beginning writers have a tendency to simply use too many of them. To convey information at the highest rate, it can be useful to edit your draft by sifting out the adverbs that you don’t need to make your point.
“Adjectives are words that describe the qualities or states of being of nouns: enormous, doglike, silly, yellow, fun, fast. They can also describe the quantity of nouns: many, few, millions, eleven.”
The same goes for adjectives. To many starting writers, it somehow seems to sound or feel ‘prettier’ to use more, not less. For most readers, it’s the exact opposite. Use no more than absolutely necessary.
- Use less words in general.
Some writers have a hard time even getting the first two sentences down. If this is you, a Marketing Copy Generator like StoryLab.ai is perfect for you.
Other writers are quite the opposite. Once they get started, they write and pour more words onto the page and it seems like a neverending story.
If this is you, then you probably already know you need to try to use less words to serve your readers better. This is how to do it:
Decide your strategic storytelling goals and stick to them
Decide on the main thought and main feeling you want to help get across. What is it you want this story to help you and your readers to achieve? Decide on no more than three supporting thoughts for your main thoughts. Decide on a CTA (Call-to-Action).
That’s it. Strategically outline your story.
Now, when you write — and especially when you edit your first draft: leave out every paragraph, every sentence, and every single word that does not directly add to those goals.
3. Write what you know
And finally, a piece of writing advice that you hear over and over again. ‘Write what you know’. Sounds smart, don’t it? But what does it mean? And why is it so important?
‘Write what you know’ in my book, means three things:
- Write from your own experience, because readers can cut through the noise and feel out whether or not you’re truly knowledgeable and passionate about a subject. Example: me, writing about writing as a copywriter, author and brand storytelling coach with 10+ years of experience.
- Write blog intros, anecdotes, and examples from your own experience, because readers can feel your authenticity through the examples that you offer. And the more authentic your examples, the more of a shot you have of emotionally hooking your reader into your story.
- Do your research if and when you’re writing about something that you’re not a full expert about yet, but still learning. And in that case, do your research well enough that you can create a sound outline without your notes at hand. Fill in sources after outlining, with links and references.
And that’s it. I hope you’ve found these three beginners’ writing tips useful. I’d love to hear from you if you did.
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What are some basic tips for improving writing skills?
Basic tips include practicing regularly, reading widely, focusing on grammar and style, writing concisely, and editing thoroughly. Additionally, seeking feedback can be invaluable.
How important is reading for developing writing skills?
Reading widely is crucial as it exposes you to various styles, vocabularies, and ideas, and helps you understand different ways to engage and inform readers.
What are some effective strategies for overcoming writer’s block?
Effective strategies include taking a break, changing your environment, brainstorming ideas without self-censorship, and engaging in a different creative activity to stimulate your mind.
How can one effectively edit and proofread their writing?
Editing effectively involves checking for clarity, coherence, and consistency in your writing. Proofreading focuses on correcting grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Reading aloud and using tools like Grammarly can help.
What role does a strong vocabulary play in writing?
A strong vocabulary enables precise and varied expression, allowing you to convey ideas clearly and engagingly without being repetitive or simplistic.
How can writers create strong openings for their pieces?
Strong openings can be created by starting with a compelling fact, question, quote, or narrative that immediately captures the reader’s interest.
What are the best practices for writing for online audiences?
For online audiences, use concise sentences, break text into smaller paragraphs, incorporate visuals, and use subheadings and lists for easier scanning.
How can one develop a unique writing style?
Developing a unique style comes with practice and experimentation. It involves finding your voice, reflecting your personality in your writing, and not being afraid to break conventional norms.
What is the importance of understanding the target audience in writing?
Understanding your audience is key to tailoring your tone, style, and content to their interests and needs, making your writing more relatable and effective.
How can storytelling be incorporated into different types of writing?
Storytelling can be incorporated by using narrative techniques such as character development, setting, conflict, and resolution to make the writing more engaging and memorable.