How do you become a better writer, anyway? This is a question we see frequently. It’s fairly straightforward.
- STUDY. Read books and articles on how to write. If you only write, without learning how, you’ll waste time generating a large quantity of low quality work. This work may be fixed in editing, but it’s much more efficient to write the best first draft you can. We have a good list of learning resources on our Resources page.
- READ. Study the work of good writers, especially in the genre you want to write. Combined with a study of writing techniques, you will see how writers construct stories that entertain their readers. Remember, you are writing for your reader—not for yourself! Pay attention to what the writer is doing, and how it affects you as a reader. Take notes if you want, and review them at the end. Studying high-quality writing is crucial: check out the National Book Awards, or for Sci-Fi and Fantasy, the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, or any other relevant literary awards.
- WRITE. Practice your writing skills, especially short stories. You can start a huge novel project, but a better choice is usually a series of short works such as journal entries, short stories, or articles. Short pieces are faster to write and edit, so there is less risk of burnout, and you will be able to see your progress as you improve. Writing prompts can be helpful if you are not sure what to write about. We have thousands of writing prompts available via a chat bot on our Discord server as well as monthly short story themes.
- EDIT. Most of the work of writing is really editing. You may edit as you go, or edit at the end, but most first drafts need a lot of editing. Give yourself permission to write bad first drafts, then polish them into decent second drafts, better third drafts, and so on. Most successful authors revise their work dozens of times before it is published. Editing or critiquing the work of others, and having your own work edited or critiqued, can help you see your blind spots. Studying, reading, writing, and editing (as above) will build your skills so that you can give good critique, and understand the critique that people give you. We have active writing and critique discussion on our Discord Server.
That’s it, those are the steps! The rest is up to you: be disciplined and spend the time to build your skills—or don’t, and you won’t.
You don’t have to do those steps separately; you may get better results and find it more interesting to switch between the different tasks as needed. Just make sure not to neglect any of them and you’ll be on your way. Good luck!