Confession time: I don’t think I’m actually that good a writer. I don’t think it’s a problem though; the way I see it, my strengths as a wannabe journalist lie elsewhere, in other equally valuable places. However, aiming to improve my weaker areas can’t hurt and we should always be looking to better ourselves.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how to improve my writing, and have consolidated my thoughts in to five steps. Please, add your own tips for improving your writing- the more the better.
1. Read more. I’m not talking about the odd article online either, I’m talking about fiction and novels. When I finished my first year of university, I went into an enormous 3-4 month void and the reading just stopped. As a result, I found it harder to write and the writing I did do, took longer for me to be happy with it. Reading for pleasure is a really rewarding activity. It fills your brain with good stuff, familiarises you with new techniques and writing styles, and will do wonders for avoiding writer’s block.
2. Write consistently. Everyone has a blog these day, it’s just expected. The important thing is keeping it updated though. It’s easy to get lazy, and not post for a week, which quickly turns into a month. Stick with it, and write around as well, by pitching, writing for the student paper, or even writing guest posts for Wannabe Hacks. Writing multiple times a week will, obviously, improve your writing. Practice makes perfect, and lots of practice will make you even better.
3. Stray outside your comfort zone. I started off writing about games when I was a teenager, branching out later to technology. It was a good place to start, but when the opportunity to write a feature about something in the student newspaper arose, I leapt at it. I undertook a feature on graphic design and interviewed Milton Glaser- the guy who designed the I heart NY logo. It was the first time I’d ever written anything like it, and the first time I’d ever done a feature-length interview. I learnt a lot and found I could write in other fields.
Certainly, carve yourself a niche and specialise, but trying your hand at things you wouldn’t immediately think of is a great way for improving your writing.
4. Edit other people’s work. This is a big one. If you get the chance to look at and improve other people’s work, then do so. You’ll be helping them, and yourself. In doing so, I’ve found I can spot mistakes I’d make and avoid them, and become better at improving awkward wording. You can also turn into a grammar nazi, which is never bad in journalism.
5. Get feedback. Colleagues, peers, friends, people you pitch to, even family can be good for advice. Basically, when you’ve written a piece, ask for advice. Was it good? How could it be better? Be prepared for criticism, and be prepared to learn from it. People can say some really insightful things, and a second pair of eyes will notice things that totally passed you by.
Over to you now. How would you suggest improving your writing? Get involved on Twitter at @wannabehacks, by commenting here, or on our Facebook page.