Writing is a great way to express yourself, work through your own thoughts, and all-around exercise your brain. In honour of NaNoWriMo, here are some of our favourite ways to improve your writing.
Photo by Ramas Gecas.
10. Organise Your Thoughts Before Writing
While there's something to be said for spontaneous writing, it really helps if you sit down and organise your thoughts beforehand. Apps like Scrivener and yWriter are great tools specifically aimed at writers, but you could always use our favourite all-around organisers like Evernote and OneNote. No matter your favourite method of organising yourself, you'll find that putting together long-form pieces is much easier with a rough outline to work from.
9. Set A Regular Schedule
Even if you're not the procrastination type, setting a rigid schedule for your writing and sticking to it is one of the best ways to perfect your writing. Do it in the morning for best results, and break it up into small increments to avoid anxiety. Don't write during unscheduled times, either (though jotting down notes is okay—inspiration can strike at the strangest of times).
8. Keep Up With Good Grammar
Proofreading is an important part of writing, and despite some folks having a knack for good grammar, none of us are perfect. Keep yourself on your toes with some lighthearted grammar resources, and be sure to take advantage of some of the great word tools out there. Not only will they keep you writing correctly, but they're likely to keep you learning new words and idioms to freshen up your writing.
7. Keep A Journal
While we all have our writing projects, one of the best ways to better your writing (and support your personal development) is to keep a separate journal. Use a tool like 750 Words or One Page Per Day to force yourself into a regular journal where you just write whatever comes to mind. If you find it too difficult to just sit down and start writing, you can plan out a goal for your journal beforehand—it keeps you focused without burdening with rules. Be sure to check out our Hive Five on journaling tools, too, for more inspiration.
6. Use Distraction-Free Writing Tools
Computers have given us a lot of great tools in the name of writing, but they also provide a myriad of distractions that can throw us off. Here at Lifehacker, we've always been fans of distraction-free writing tools—programs that block out all the other stuff on your screen and give you a large writing space where you can just go at it. Some of our favourites include Ommwriter, Writemonkey, and Creawriter—though you can always just turn Google Docs and Microsoft Word into distraction-free settings, if you so choose.
5. Go Longhand For A Change
Even if you prefer to do your writing digitally, doing some good old-fashioned handwriting is always a good change of pace. Handwriting improves your cognitive abilities and stays out of the way of your thought process, so it's a good way to look at things from a new angle and keep you on your toes. So grab a notebook, make sure to keep your grip loose, and have fun with it.
4. Learn From Other Good Writers</h3?
No man or woman is an island, and it's unlikely that any writer would be anywhere without observing others. Never stop reading, and always keep an eye on what famous writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, Ruth Rendell, Jerry Seinfeld, and many others are saying about the strategies they use to write well—you never know when you may discover something new.
3. Know Your Most Common Mistakes And Avoid Them
When we fall into bad habits, it can be hard to get out of them. We all have our own grammar mistakes, typos, cliches, and misheard expressions that constantly haunt us and burn themselves into our brain. Know which mistakes are your most common, and focus on fixing them one at a time. If more extreme measures are needed, you can also consider autocorrecting them as you write.
2. Beat Writer's Block
Even with the best laid plans, we all get stuck at one point or another. While most of these tips should keep you from experiencing it often, those few times you're cursed with a bad case of writer's block, try curing it with some writing toys, or draft it as an email to get the juices flowing. Of course, just showing up to your scheduled time works pretty well, too. If you find it becomes a recurring problem, stop your writing sessions in the middle of a sentence to give yourself somewhere to pick up from the next time you sit down—there's nothing worse for writer's block than a blank page.
1. Remember Why You're Writing
In the end, we're all writing for a reason, whether it's because we want to make a living out of it or challenge ourselves to do something new during NaNoWriMo. Remind yourself why you write to keep yourself motivated. Write your goals on your mirror with dry erase markers, or try one of our many other motivation tips out there. After all, it's not about what you do, but why.