**Written August 3rd, 2018**
To my fellow writers and aspiring writers alike, here are a couple of tips that I’ve found to improve my writing! I’m not a professional by any means, but as a dedicated student to the craft, I believe I’ve learned a thing or two…
1. Say less with more.
When I was young, I thought that good writing meant long illustrious sentences that danced across multiple pages, strung together with outlandish words that communicated an unattainable level of intelligence. It took me a long time to realize that writing is not solely a showcase of knowledge. A good writer does more with less. The more elaborate words tossed in, the less room there is for the writer to craft their skill. Wordiness cripples creativity. Pieces read smoothly when the syntax is varied. (Syntax = sentence structure). Long descriptive sentences that are broken up with short fleeting thoughts. Thoughts broken up into two sentences. Depending on the nature of your piece, a list may work, ordering things so that one spills over into the next, connected by not binding. I encourage you to play around with condensing your writing. Just because a sentence is long and flooded with SAT vocab doesn’t mean it reads well. Less is more. When I’m writing, I pretend that I can’t go over a certain word count. It forces me to choose my words carefully, what do I want the reader to take away? At what point are there too many words? When do they lose their power? It’s a fine line to walk. Practice helps greatly. Stopping to read your work out loud is useful because you can hear when your sentences are distracting rather than captivating.
2. Read far, and deep, and often.
Reading and writing go hand in hand. Writers grow through other writers. Being a strong writer begins with being a conscious reader. So often we read and just look for a thrilling plot. Recently I read a book where there isn’t much of a plot at all. However, it was one of the best books I’ve read in a while. Why? The writing. It was lyrical, and dreamy, and painted images with words as paint. The main character struggled with mental illness, and since the story was told through first-person, the reader only understood the world around her from this altered perspective. It was genius. The author never drew attention to this, but as a conscious reader I knew to take everything the narrator says with a grain of salt. This is why the writing was captivating. It challenged my view of other characters, my understandings of them laced with skepticism.
I say read far, and by this I mean far across various genres and topics. I say read deep, and by this I mean in between the lines, searching for more, carefully taking in all elements of the writing, not just what is spelled out for you on the page. Often, well, that’s self-explanatory. The more you read, the more you expose yourself to new craft, new ways of thinking, new vocabulary. Reading is the absolute best way to cultivate new vocabulary. Especially if you read a book or piece outside of your comfort zone! If we stick to the same genres or types of books, we shelter ourselves. A non-fiction novel on serial killers reads quite differently than a fiction novel about a romance.
3. Write in your head.
I do this all day, every day. I’ve fallen into the habit of shaping my thoughts into a narrative. You’re stuck with your thoughts with no escape, so you may as well enjoy them as a thrilling read. Sometimes I’ll go out of my way to put myself in an environment that makes me think out-of-the-ordinary thoughts. For example, I’ll walk to the subway ten minutes away from my office instead of the one 200 feet from the entrance. That way, I can people watch. I can gather material. I can experience more of the world. More often than not, we write what we know. The more you know, the more expansive your writing can be. When I can’t physically be writing, I do it in my head to save for later. The more you write, the easier this becomes. At this point it’s my default state. Every thought can be shaped into a line in a bigger piece, and from these scraps of fleeting thoughts I constantly pull inspiration.
4. Share your work with others.
If you want your writing to improve, you can’t hide it. Having others read your work provides you with a new perspective. Outside readers can point out things that you didn’t even acknowledge, things that slide under your radar because they’re habit to you. Additionally, outside readers are great for pointing out when something doesn’t make sense. Let’s say you’re writing about an experience you had. Intuitively you know all of the details, which may cause you to leave some out because to you, they’re obvious. Someone who wasn’t there may not be able to grasp the full telling because they can’t make the same connections.
5. Stay mindful of your audience.
Remember who you’re writing for. Being aware of the reader can shape how you write completely. The tone you use, the language you opt for, the topics you discuss. Being able to find a voice in any given situation is challenging. My advice on this is to stay confident in the work you put out. Readers love a confident voice. If you assert your ideas with pride and show that you can stand on your own, you’ve already captivated your audience.
6. Nothing is off limits.
When you censor your writing, you prevent any growth that can be made through it. When I was recovering from my eating disorder, I found great peace in sharing my struggles through words. Speaking failed me, for some time. I couldn’t talk about my pain with anybody. My parents would visit me every night in the hospital but I couldn’t bring myself to have a conversation with them about my progress. Instead, I prepared a daily journal entry which they sat by my bedside and read each night. Through words on a page, I was able to find a voice that was able to say things that felt terribly uncomfortable out loud. Saying “I’m afraid of a piece of toast” to someone’s face is intimidating. Writing it on a page, outlining the immense fear and crippling anxiety that come with it, crafting an emotion-ridden image…it’s different. I would write and write and write each time I was overloaded with emotion. Later I could reflect back on my words and grow through them.
If I had let my fear of being judged stop me from writing about my eating disorder, I would have never found the courage to overcome it. Sharing my struggles held me accountable. I began my Instagram and blog as spaces to connect with people in the same boat I found myself in. Writing connects us. Being vulnerable and open has greatly improved the quality of my writing.
Did I miss any helpful tips? I’m always looking to improve my craft. Reach out via Instagram DM or email if you have any thoughts or questions! Sending love xxx