I’ve had best sellers on Amazon and I’m a regular contributor to Askmen.com and Thriveglobal.com. My writing has been profiled by both Converkit and Gumroad. I’ve taken my experience writing and I’ve broken down what works for building a thriving career and improving your craft.
Here are 11 surprising methods that will help you become a writer. You probably weren’t taught any of these school, but school is not where you learn to write better.
As you’ll see the in the tips below, you learn writing by living and learning from life experience.
1) Have a purpose for writing
Good writers write to either entertain or teach. Great writers manage to do both.
I don’t want to merely be a good writer. This is why I take the craft of writing seriously. I put the hard work in so that everything you read by me feels like it was written by a professional writer.
My official purpose for writing is “To take what I’ve learned the hard way and break it down so that you can learn it the easy way”. If I can do this with a little bit of humor–or at the very last, engagement–then I’ve accomplished something great. If you look at the articles on my site, you can see this is reflected in my writing style, word choice, and content.
Achieving this goal drives 100% of my blogging and writing decisions.
My secondary purpose is to spread my message as far and as wide as possible. I’ve had to learn networking, marketing, and SEO. I have a mix of e-books to promote myself on social media and books I’ve self-published on Amazon because Amazon is a massive sales-driven SEO machine. This allows more people to find me and discover my writing.
On the rare occasion that my secondary goal and primary goal conflict, the primary goal always wins.
I’ve been blogging with a purpose for over a decade on various platforms and in various places. In blog posts alone, I’ve easily put down half a million words. I’ve published four books with two others slated to be released by the end of 2017.
I’m not ballin’, but I can pay my bills from writing with a little leftover.
2) Write every day to become a better writer
Writing is a skill. Like any other skill, it requires consistent practice to improve.
It doesn’t matter what you write. It doesn’t matter how much you write. If you want to become a better writer, you need to write every day.
Here’s a short list of things to write to improve your writing skills:
- “How to” guides
- Social media posts
- Rewrite technical articles in simple language
- Organize your thoughts
- Keep a dream journal
- Write out your goals and plans for the next 1, 3, or 5 years
These are all ideas that will get your mental juices going and can sometimes be used to overcome the dreaded “writer’s block”. If none of this appeals to you, there’s always your life and experiences. This brings me to my next lesson…
3) Write about your life experiences
Writing about your experiences is powerful.
It forces you to deconstruct something and then reconstruct it from the audience’s point of view. The power of this increases exponentially when you do it with a specific goal in mind.
To me, this is one of the biggest reasons why writing is important.
Being able to tell a story with a message is something that surprisingly few people can do. To tell a story with meaning and a purpose is something I estimate 99% of people can’t do, but it’s something the best writers do with ease.
An article from bookmachine.org expresses the fundamental power of writing from your life experiences:
Letting your personal experience guide your writing is not only the easiest way to get words onto the page, but the best way to make your passages meaningful, insightful and highly engaging. Indeed, over the years some of the best writers in the world have used their own lives as the basis for both fiction and non-fiction classics and that’s something every aspiring artist should take note of.
Anyone can deliver the facts of an event. This requires zero empathy, understanding of people, or the ability to communicate.
The best writers force people to form an emotional connection with the material.
Your story might be cool and inspiring, but if you can’t tell it in a way that resonates with your audience, then your writing will underperform.
4) Technical writing makes you a better writer
The wonderful thing about mathematics and the sciences is that you NEED a large vocabulary to discuss things.
The world is a large place with many things that behave in many different ways under many different conditions. I’d argue that one finishes a physics or chemistry degree with a more robust lexicon than an English or literature student.
However, it’s not the size of the vocabulary that matters most. It’s the efficiency and precision with which it’s used that’s important.
Scientific or technical writing demands that you convey information efficiently, clearly and precisely. Word choice is important. Precise language is required to exactly describe an equation or phenomena.
Precise writing makes it easier to cogently express your ideas. The better you can do this, the more your writing skills will improve and the better writer you’ll become.
5) Take advice to become a great writer
If you put your writing out there, you will get feedback.
Good writing can always improve. Good writers can become great writers by listening to feedback. You must always be open to suggestions and advice.
This is because ultimately, a writer is in service to his audience.
You only do the writing. They do the reading. This means that you need to at least consider what they’re saying.
Sometimes the criticism is just jealousy. Other times, it’s legitimate information that will improve the quality of your writing. You’ll have to be the judge.
Not everyone who gives you criticism is a hater and not every hater is wrong. If you want to be a great writer, you’ll occasionally have to put your ego aside and listen to criticism.
Some of it will be valid. Some of it will be malice. Some of it will be downright spiteful.
But your job is to listen, take what is useful, and discard the rest.
Get paid with your writing
Stop wasting time and playing around. Learn to make your passion pay and leave that nasty job behind. Aren’t you sick and tired of being a “starving artist”?
Don’t you hate:
- Never standing out even though you’re a better writer than most content creators?
- Not seeing your audience grow–or worse, shrink?
- Working a job you hate because your passion doesn’t pay?
- Seeing writers with half your talent go 10 times as far?
Wouldn’t you like to get paid from your writing?
It’s time to stop leaving money on the table! It’s never been easier to make money as a writer…
But there has also never been more competition.
If you want to make money from your writing, you need to be damn good at it. Let me show you how to get the competitive edge.Get Your Copy Now
6) Learn another language
I’ve always had a strong interest in foreign languages. It wasn’t until I really started learning French and Spanish that I developed an appreciation for my own.
When learning the romance languages, you begin to appreciate subtle things about your native language. Taking these things for granted is almost certainly keeping you from producing great writing
Learning the distinctions between your language and another will make you a better communicator.
For example, French and Spanish have a sharp distinction between actions in the past which continue and those with a definite end (past imperfect vs perfect).
We never learn it this way in English, but it’s present. Becoming aware of when to use these rules in other languages made my writing better in English. Here’s a brief list of things that learning a foreign language taught me about grammar that has made my own writing strong:
- Transitive versus Intransitive Verbs
- Personal Pronouns versus Object Pronouns
- Passive Voice versus Active Voice
- Future Tense versus Conditional Tense
- Past Participle/Past Imperfect/Past Perfect
If English is your native language, you likely use these forms without even thinking about it. Learning them in a foreign language will force you to understand how they work in English.
This understanding will make your writing more clear and purposeful.
7) Use twitter to become a better writer
Twitter forces you to express your message in 280 characters or less. That’s two–maybe three–short sentences you get to make your point.
If you want to be excellent at it – and I am – then you have to get better at expressing meaningful ideas in these short sentences. When proofreading blog posts, I often take a long sentence and condense it into a Twitter post.
This improves clarity. It also provides a solid tweet and allows you to market your writing more effectively.
Using Twitter to improve your writing also has another major benefit: the size of your audience is a proxy indicator for the effectiveness of your writing. Generally speaking, if you know how to get more followers on Twitter, this means that you are expressing yourself with words in an engaging manner.
This is similar to the effect that SEO has on blog posts.
While a writer’s popularity is not the sole judge of their talent, the number of likes and retweets you receive, and the followers you gain at least tell you if your writing is engaging and interesting.
Tweets so dope you have to snort them!
Let’s be real. Right now, you’re struggling on Twitter.
- Your follower count is at a stand still or worse, you’re losing them
- No one retweets your stuff
- You’re 1 suspension away from losing your account and being forced to start over
Even though you see accounts of regular people having big growth and massive success, you think this “Twitter thing” just ain’t worth it.
The thing is, there’s no better platform for making connections, generating traffic, and getting paid.
In it, I give you the real game on how to grow your following organically, without resorting to cheap tactics that don’t actually work. I show you exactly how to:
- Make people share your tweets, even if they disagree
- Be polarizing without trolling
- How to make any topic highly engaging and addictive
If you wanna know more, check out what people are are saying about Engagement Is The New Cocaine.Learn How To Grow Your Twitter
8) Learn the basics of SEO to write better
I am no expert at search engine optimization.
I know just enough so that the search engines don’t work against me.
I’ve learned enough to work with the system rather than against it. This following is a beginners perspective on SEO and how it’s made me a better writer:
SEO seems to be largely about readability and categorization. It obviously is more technical than this, but the meta-idea is what’s important.
Google wants to provide people with easy-to-read content that solves their problem. This is also what writing with a purpose does. This is not a coincidence.
On writing for SEO, Steve Pavlina once said, “Write for people first, search engines second.” Intellectually, this always made sense. However, it wasn’t until I started trying to drive traffic to my site that I really came to understand it.
Granted, Steve was referring to a lot of outdated SEO practices (like keyword stuffing), but the general point still stands. With machine learning and the improvement of SEO search algorithms, computers now read a lot closer to how a human would. Interestingly enough, this makes his point even more valid but in a different fashion than I think he expected.
If you write to up-to-date SEO standards, your writing will be well-organized, easy to read, and extremely helpful. You’ll build authority and trust. In much the same way that growing on Twitter demonstrates that you’re becoming a better writer, improving your placement in search engine rankings is another proxy indicator of your writing ability.
If your writing is organized, purposeful, and helps many people, then there’s a good chance that you’ll automatically rank well for the keywords surrounding your topic or niche.
If no one can find you, then you need a leg up.
SEO improves your writing, not just for the internet, but for all purposes and types of content as well.
9) Stop making outlines
In high school, most of us learned to make an outline when we write.
We pick a topic, list points in support of that topic, and turn those into sentences. This is a sound process.
It structures your thoughts, which makes writing easier. You can produce a good article this way. The ones I’ve done with this process don’t turn out too badly.
The problem with this method is that it’s boring as hell.
The Writing Cooperative offers this piece of advice when it comes to writing an outline:
**The first draft is about you and the story. Nothing else, and no one else. **Make it what you want, and don’t worry about how others will perceive it.
I completely agree with it.
I haven’t written any articles on this blog with an outline.
When I have an idea, I sit down and start writing. I’ve learned to enjoy the process of creating with words instead of building a structure. I’ve never regarded myself as an artist, but I imagine this is how artists must feel when they create.
The structure of an outline is suffocating.
My best ideas come when I’m “in the zone” writing. Proofreading happens later. I can always go back and edit the piece later.
At best, my words are guided by a theme. My fingers are inspired by an idea and I keep writing until I’ve exhausted all that I’ve got to say.
10) Learn the rules of grammar and punctuation
Anyone educated in the American system probably hates the Oxford comma.
This assumes that they even know what the Oxford comma is. If you don’t, Google it.
Basic grammar and punctuation go a long way in helping you to achieve your purpose in writing. Even if your readers don’t have a sophisticated grasp of the language rules, they’ll know when you’ve broken them.
The goal of your writing is to transmit the ideas in your mind into someone else’s. Since humanity hasn’t figured out how to harness telepathy, we have to use a language and writing system.
This system follows a set of rules so that all parties can understand the ideas transmitted in that particular system. This is best understood in the context of foreign language acquisition.
English is my native language system. If I want to express a simple idea like “I want to eat”, but everyone around me uses the Spanish language system, then my words are meaningless until I express them using the Spanish language and grammar rules.
Periods or commas in the wrong place can completely alter the meaning of a message, even if the readers themselves don’t exactly know how to use them correctly.
Even if someone doesn’t know exactly what the past particle is, they know what it means when they see it. If you use it when you meant to express something that’s going to happen later, you’re going to have a problem.
Learn the grammar basics and avoid common grammar mistakes and you will easily become a much better writer.
Good grammar and punctuation will improve the quality and clarity of your writing more than anything else you do, but there is a point of diminishing returns. If your writing mechanics are strong, this final tip may be where you are lacking.
11) Live and learn from life
A richly lived life full of tragedy and triumph is the most natural way to become a better writer.
Your age doesn’t matter but your experience does.
If you want to connect with your audience, you need life experience.
You don’t need to be an expert. You don’t even need to have a lot of things figured out. But you do need to have a range of experiences that you can draw from.
Experience is necessary because your readers are other humans. These humans have human experiences that have taught them universal lessons. Lessons that can’t be taught in a book and can only be learned in the school of hard knocks we call “life”.
It doesn’t matter why you write or what genre you write in. At the end of the day, people are reading your words that are filtered through your experiences. They can tell if your perspective is real and authentic or false and contrived.
The former is how you build a bond with your audience, while the latter is how you repel them. Authenticity is powerful because it is–by definition–impossible to fake.
You will live and die as a writer by your ability to connect with other people. Let your experience bleed through the pages.
The moment you think you’re done learning is the moment you stop growing. After this, death follows gingerly.
Above all things, always improve your writing skills. Post on social media, write short stories, get feedback from other bloggers, etc…
Always find a way to improve your technical mastery and stylistic expression.
A recap of 11 surprising ways to become a better writer:
- Have a purpose for writing
- Write every day to become a better writer
- Write about your life experiences
- Technical writing makes you a better writer
- Take advice to become a great writer
- Learn another language
- Use twitter to become a better writer
- Learn the basics of SEO to write better
- Stop making outlines
- Learn the rules of grammar and punctuation
- Live and learn from life