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Whether you are a newbie writer, or you’ve got a library of published works behind you, we’re all plagued by one nagging thing: self-doubt.
It’s normal to sometimes worry that you’re not good enough, or that you’re never going to make it in your dream career.
However, it’s also important to remember that you are not alone.
We all have these doubts, but they are just thoughts. They are not a true reflection of what your skills really are, and you definitely shouldn’t just give up!
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If you want to become a freelance writer – you can do it (hey – that’s what this whole site is about!).
If you’ve been worrying you could be a better writer, there are so many things you can do to improve.
The road to being a ‘good’ writer doesn’t entail accumulating an enormous vocabulary and typing out long, elaborate sentences.
It just means knowing how to entice your audience and keep them engaged – and there are a number of ways to do that.
Below are some of my best tips for improving your writing – I constantly read through this list and look for improvements in my own writing, so I really recommend you do too!
How to Write Better: 10 Step Guide
Step 1) Keep Writing!
If you’re trying to learn how to write better, the first thing you need to do is write!
It can be tempting when you’re doubting your skills as a writer to stop altogether and focus on reading as many articles on improving as possible, but this is just another form of procrastinating.
Try to write every day, even if it’s just for ten minutes a day.
It’s for this reason that having my own blog keeps me so accountable with how often I write – even if I don’t have a project to work on for a client, I am always writing new blog posts for my own website.
If you haven’t started blogging yet, I highly recommend you start your own blog if you want to be a writer. Blogging gives you your own platform to share your thoughts and writing and is also a great way to build your portfolio as a newer freelance writer.
Step 2) Know Your Styles
There are many different styles of writing you could adopt. A few very generic styles include:
Formal and Authoritative
Informal and Casual
Friendly and Helpful
Long-form personal essays
There are so many more! Each style of writing is more suited to certain contexts than others. For example, if you’re writing an expert industry guide, adopting a more authoritative tone is going to be more effective at convincing readers of your expertise than writing in a very informal style.
Recognising what styles work in what contexts, and being able to adapt your writing accordingly is an important skill to have when trying to be a better writer.
Being able to diversify is also a great skill to have when it comes to landing your first freelance writing job.
Step 3) The ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Rule
This rule is imperative if you want to be a good writer, especially if you are interested in writing sales copy as a freelance writer.
Poor examples of writing are when the writer tells the reader what they want them to know. For example, if you were pitching to a new potential client, a poor example of selling yourself would be to say:
“I’m a great writer with a lot of experience. I always pay attention to detail and have an excellent attention to detail.”
Anyone could write that sentence, but that doesn’t mean its true. You want to show people what you can do with your writing, rather than just relaying blank information. A good example of showing is:
“I have over 3 years experience writing for online businesses, specialising in creating long-form content to be shared on my client’s website and across social media channels. For my latest client, I produced an industry-specific guide that resulted in my client’s traffic increasing by 20% over 3 months, with the post also generating over 10 backlinks from other leading companies in the same industry so far.”
Something like this shows your reader that you are an accomplished writer because of the work you have done, the experience you have, and the results you produce. You don’t need to tell anyone ‘I’m great at my job’ because you’ve provided solid, indisputable evidence that already shows that.
Step 4) WIIFYM
Almost without fail, when someone reads your writing (if it’s written for businesses as opposed to a novel), they will be subconsciously thinking ‘What’s in it for me?’.
People read articles and web pages online because they want something out of it.
That could be a bit of advice, a lesson learned, or information on a deal or insider secret – whatever it is, you need to be writing with this question in mind.
What does your article give to your reader that they won’t have before reading it?
Writing with WIIFYM in the back of your mind is a fantastic insider secret for creating truly compelling copy that people actually want to read.
Step 5) Finding the Balance
Have you ever read a piece of writing that a novice writer is desperately proud of, only to find it is filled with long, winding sentences that lead to a path of nowhere?
Yup, me too.
The biggest mistake a lot of newer writers make is thinking that great writing is ridiculously complex and intellectual. Trying to write in this way often has the opposite effect of making you look decidedly not intellectual.
Find a balance in your writing. Some of your sentences, on occasion, can be perfectly and intricately designed to be long and winding, taking your reader on a delightful path that is easy to read, interesting to follow, and that serves an ultimate purpose. Some, however, are best left short.
Step 6) Avoid Information Overload
Another good tip when learning how to write better is to avoid overloading your reader with information too quickly.
This tip can be taken in multiple ways.
For some of you, this means deconstructing individual sentences or paragraphs and dispersing the information you provide in a more digestible manner.
Take, for example, this sentence:
The brown haired girl ran with her science, maths, and English school books towards the yellow bus that was packed with school kids.
It’s a bad sentence.
There is so much information here that we don’t know what the main point of the sentence is.
Should we pick up on the fact that she has brown hair? That she has school books? That the bus is packed with kids? Or that she was running?
Here’s that sentence unpacked:
The girl gathered up her textbooks. From her bedroom window, she saw the yellow school bus turn the corner and start to wind its way down the road. She could just make out the bobbing heads of children crammed into the seats of the bus and imagined the sound of their voices fighting over the other from within. She ran down the stairs, slammed the front door, and fled towards the bus stop.
This sentence has almost exactly the same amount of information as the original sentence – if not more – but it is far easier to read and actually far more engaging with the information provided in drips throughout the paragraph.
When writing, whether you’re crafting a blog article for a business or writing a non-fiction book, remember that more information isn’t necessarily better.
Step 7) Learn to Edit
Learning to proofread and edit your own writing is an essential step if you want to be a better writer.
Many people write an article, post it online, and leave it at that.
However, if those people read that article back, they would be horrified at the number of typos, grammatical mistakes and inaccurate sentences that inevitably crop up in first drafts.
All humans are fallible, and even the keenest eye is likely to make a few mistakes when you’re flying through an article.
Get into the habit of reading through your work once it’s done multiple times if you can. Each time you’ll find a spelling mistake or a grammatical error, or you might just realise that your structure needs re-jigging to get the most out of your content.
Step 8) Welcome Criticism
One of my modules at University was in creative writing, and as a part of this course, we all had to submit our work to be reviewed by our peers on a monthly basis.
At first, this terrified me.
Although I loved writing stories and poems, I’d never really gone out of my way to share my writing with other people.
Inviting 30 people to not only read my work but to review it made me want to crawl into a hole and never peek my head back out.
However, this process actually became one of my most invaluable lessons from the module.
It is so useful to get feedback from someone who is looking at your work as it is: words on a piece of paper, without all the sub-plot and ideas that swirl inside your mind when you’re writing the piece.
If you have a like-minded friend who is also a writer or can find someone online to take part in peer reviews with you, I highly recommend it. Learning to accept criticism from people who know and like you is essential if you are ever going to publish your work for the entire world to see.
Step 9) Don’t be a Cliché
Once upon a time.
The next thing I knew.
A chip on your shoulder.
The calm before the storm.
What comes around goes around.
Clichés are over-used, and they’re lazy. There is always a better way of expressing yourself than falling back on a phrase that has been used more times than anyone could count.
Step 10) Avoid Over Analysis Paralysis
Now, stop reading how to write better.
No, I mean it – stop.
Let your sentences be sloppy. Let your paragraphs be messy and overloaded.
The only way that will ever change is if you keep writing.
Don’t make the mistake of painstakingly analysing your ideas and your writing. Don’t pause after every sentence and look for improvements.
Let the words flow. Fill up those pages.
Then – and only then – go back and make it better.