6 Tips to Improve Your Writing

Reading good writing -- in any form -- will make you a better writer. (Photo illustration by Cynthia Price)

Reading good writing — in any form — will make you a better writer. (Photo illustration by Cynthia Price)

Writing a book is easy.

The hard part is sitting down to write it. Or sitting down to write the article that is due in two hours… or the speech that is due on Monday.

Whenever I hear bestselling novelist Adriana Trigiani speak, she always tells would-be writers, “Just write.”

It’s great advice.

Here are a few tips for writing or improving your writing:

  1. Write every day. You can write in a journal. You can write a letter to a loved one. You can write one page of your novel. At the end of the year you would have 365 pages.
  2. Don’t write to impress. As a college student, I knew how to turn a short sentence into a longer one so I could hit my word count. I liked using large words – the better to show off my vocabulary. Readers don’t care about that. They want a good story.
  3. Read good writing. Some of the best writing I know comes from writers for Sports Illustrated. Think about it. There are two teams or two players. One wins, one loses. This happens over and over. How do you make it exciting? Read Sports Illustrated and you will find out. Read the classics. Read anything and identify what you don’t like and why. Then don’t do that. If you find something you like, strive to be that good.
  4. Shorten what you wrote. After I finish writing an article, I check the word count and then attempt to delete 10 percent of it. Almost always, the writing becomes stronger and more powerful.
  5. Check the verbs. Passive voice is quite dull to read. If you aren’t good at this, take a highlighter and identify every very. Then you can change the passive verbs to active. You’ll see a difference in your writing.
  6. Read for inspiration. I aspire to publish a mystery. I read lots of mysteries and now know the specific type of mystery I want to write. I know the setting of the book, too, and so I read travel books from that location.

Now stop reading this and go write. And yes, I know I need to take my own advice and finish the novel!