While I’m the last person to be asked for writing advice, I do get queries on how one can be better at the art form. I don’t have any solid experience in order to give counsel, and like everyone else I am a work in progress. I’m still learning the basics and trying to perfect the use of even the simplest rules in grammar to my own work.
If one would still insist for some advice, the only thing I can give with confidence is that you should read more books. If you want to be a better writer, you have to be a better reader. There is no way you can improve in writing without having any passion for the printed word.
Books are quite simply the best source of writing inspiration, and the cheapest way for you to discover your own writing style. You don’t exactly need to attend all those seminars and workshops (although I’d highly recommend going to one or two because it allows you to network with like-minded people). What you need is to read better, and to read better books.
I would go as far as saying read anything – magazines, blogs, newspapers, screenplays, interview transcripts, literary reviews. Consume the printed word. Read diversely.
Start by reading the classics. And I mean it. While others would perhaps direct you to a young adult novel, I’d suggest you look at the writing of people who have made an impact in the literary world. Don’t be ashamed of reading the classic children’s books or choosing A Tale Of Two Cities over The Fault In Our Stars. Great authors of today read the classics. And even though you may not plan on becoming an author, the classics are a great foundation for anyone who simply wants to be a better reader by consuming well-written works.
Don’t always buy at the popular bookstores. I highly suggest you scavenge at book sale events or used books stores. There are many online merchants who also sell titles which aren’t readily available in your favourite bookstores. Plus, most of these books come quite cheap. You might discover some obscure author you’d fall madly in love with, or end up with an insanely bad book which is also important for you to know what’s good. Don’t be afraid of making a wrong purchase. Take the good books with the bad books.
Read the reviews – whether from the New York Times, or Paris Review, or even from Goodreads. Try to see what people are talking about. It won’t hurt to see what all the fuzz is over a particular novel.
Read the newspaper. Read the editorials. Read the showbiz columns. Read National Geographic Magazine. Then read travel magazines or fashion editorials. See how different topics and subjects are approached in terms of tone and style. Read things which you want to know about, and fuel that curiosity by taking the time to sift through shelves, cabinets, even cargo boxes. There is treasure in words.
Be a sponge. Absorb what you read. Don’t be afraid of highlighting a passage in a book or making little notes on the pages. If you can’t, then have a notebook where you can write down quotes or thoughts about what you’re reading. This notebook will come in handy when you’re looking for inspiration, or a spark to make the connections between ideas and experiences.
That’s about it. If you want to be a better writer, like how we all want to be truthfully speaking, then reading is the sure fire way I can suggest. Reading improves your vocabulary, and expands your perspective of the world by finding yourself exposed to the multitude of experiences by the men and women behind the words. It’s a free way to travel the world, as they say. And when you discover more about where you stand, and understand even just a little better why you stand, then chances are you’ll write with more confidence, authority, zeal, and of course, passion.