It mostly comes down to practice.
They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something, and at 31.5 years old, I have spent at least that long writing, scribbling out, rewriting, and editing my work over the years.
Working on my own writing and with other writers, here are a few ways I have collected to improve writing skills and exercises you can do to continue to practice.
- Write a lot. Write daily. Write different things.
- Get critiqued.
- Go somewhere like Reddit, which has a whole sub for writing prompts (r/writingprompts) and get tons of different prompts and styles to try and get inspiration and ideas. You can even write a response to the prompt in the thread and get comments and critiques from other Reddit writers.Many of whom are quite good!
- Try writing in different styles and from different perspectives. For example, write a short story however you want and then come back and write the SAME story, but from a different character’s perspective. An amazing example of this is how Gregory Maguire wrote Wicked from the wicked witch’s perspective in The Wizard of Oz. Long before it was a huge Broadway show, it was an extremely good book.
- Write a story in the third person and come back and write the same story in the first person. Ask yourself: What does the character not know that the narrator knew? How does knowing her/his thoughts (but not the narration) change what the reader knows about her/his motivations?
- A similar exercise is to rewrite a story you read somewhere (an existing story) from the perspective of a non-main character. Sometimes you see successful series authors adding additional books in a series this way. One example is Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. She came back and wrote from Four’s perspective, who ended up being a much loved (but was not the main) character from the original series.
If you are looking to improve nonfiction writing skills, one way to do this is to start a blog. You’ll write often and if you gain a following, they will often ask for additional information or clarifying questions, which will show you where you can improve.
Another way to improve nonfiction writing skills is to attempt to write a book.
Though I was already a profitable full-time writer, writing my nonfiction book truly helped me improve. Committing to writing a whole book is a huge undertaking and required me to really focus in on how I explained things, giving good examples, and making sure I truly understood the subject well enough to write it and teach others in the first place.
I also learned more in the editing process. I was able to see mistakes I made, she asked clarifying questions, which forced me to look at things from a reader’s perspective and write it in a way that made sense.
It was an incredible learning experience!
Even when writing comes naturally, learning and growing and improving and polishing your skills is a lifelong task. You should never stop growing and learning. I think if we stop learning or lose our curiosity, we die, or at least those skills stagnate and wither and die.