How to Polish Your Writing and Improve Upon Style
There are many elements of what makes a novel good, great or a work of genius. Many famous writers are known to say that after a bestselling novel, they get a writer’s block, because they feel the need to outdo themselves, which is one of the most difficult things a writer can face. But, it’s the truth. Writers need to progress on a constant pace, becoming better and better, improving upon their writing style and polishing their manuscripts and novels until they shine. It’s even more important for aspiring novelists – you will not achieve your dream of becoming a world-famous writer unless you focus not only on writing, but on improving your writing as well. Bloggers and journalists, anyone who writes for a living should take the time to work on improvement – because readers notice when there is no progress. When the sentences are repetitive, when the writer uses the same phrases time and time again, the readers notice. So, how can you improve upon style? Or, an even better question would be – how to constantly improve upon style? What daily exercises can you do to improve? Below, we have gathered some that will be helpful in this regard.
Opposite of writing – reading
They say that in order to write better, you need to keep writing, every day. That’s true. But, when you write for a living, chances are you will write every day until it becomes an automatic process, like riding a bike. You get on the bike, ride it to different locations, come back home, and the day is done. You rarely engage in flips, turns, or even cartwheels. You don’t find different ways to ride the bike – you have already mastered the bike-riding skills you needed, and that’s it. That’s what reaching a plateau means, and it can be one of the worst things that can happen to a writer. For that reason, you must engage in the opposite of writing – which is reading. Read news articles, read stories that are written in a way that feels weird to you. Most of all, read poetry, even if you think you wouldn’t enjoy it. Immerse yourself into the imagery and the words, the composition and the lyrical quality. Do not focus on copying anything, simply absorb. Writers absorb every word, every sentence they read, and as such, reading is just as important to a writer as writing. When you have stopped reading everything that comes along, you need to continue and dedicate time in your day for reading.
Read thesaurus, grammar and vocabulary books
Even the best writers can make grammar errors, use the wrong words, or use the same words in their writing. Reading grammar books, checking different types of thesauruses and vocabulary books is not a sign that you are not a capable writer. It just means that you are constantly becoming better. You will discover new words that appear and sound interesting, and mean something that always took you two or three words to describe. Want to stop using so many adverbs and adjectives as you write? Then read these books and discover new ways of writing the same thing.
Use word exercises
Once you have engaged in expanding your vocabulary, it is time to practice implementing all the new words. This is a very simple exercise you can use daily and get a double benefit. What do you need to do? Make a list of ten words you have never (or almost never) used in your stories. Then, write ten different, unrelated sentences where you will use the words. Then, depending on the words you have chosen, try to write a paragraph or two and use the words in the same context. The double benefit, of course, is that on one side, you are doing the act of writing and improving, and on the other side, you are expanding and polishing on your style.
Rewrite old stories
One of the best ways to see how far you have come in writing is to dig up old stories you have written at least a year previously. Or, if you cannot go that far back, stories that are at least six months old would do. Then, rewrite the same story – without looking at it, of course – and then compare the two versions. Analyze both stories, but make sure you are objective. Do not fall into a wave of negativity and focus on how bad the old story was, or look for ways in which the new story shows that you have not improved. You have improved, but you need to be objective to see it. Also, you need to discover what can be better. Do you still use the same phrase to describe the rising sun? If the answer is yes, then dig up another story and try again.
Experiment with writing
We all have our comfort zones when it comes to writing. Some writers write strictly from a male or female point of view. Some writers use first person, some use third person limited, some use omnipresent third person point of view. Regardless of which one is most comfortable to you, make sure to experiment. Make a drastic change. If most of your stories are written in first person, write an experimental story using third person omnipresent point of view. If you write from a female point of view in third person, try writing from a male point of view in first person. Experiment with different situations and different ways of writing. You never know when you might need to write about a prison break, or escaping from captivity. Experimenting with random scenes, points of view, and situations will help you expand your writing, especially when it comes to pace. Action scenes, for example, require shorter sentences that are precise, yet descriptive, since you don’t want to lose the reader. Descriptions of cities, houses, and roads need to be detailed, yet remain entertaining.
Last, but not least, always analyze your writing objectively, from a reader’s point of view, and look for improvement areas.