There are so many ways to enhance your writing abilities. It doesn’t matter if you want to improve your writing for work, for yourself, or in order to become an author, it just matters that you want to improve. There are so many “authorities” on writing. Yes, there are hard grammar rules. While I am not a top-level grammar nazi, I do have issues with misspellings and grammar errors that make me pause and say ‘really?’ However, I tend to auto-fix them in my mind.
Yes, there are those who genuinely have typos. I do myself. And I’m also one of those who will do the whole ‘corrected spelling’^ in chat, in text, and sometimes even on Twitter. (Though usually any tweets with typos are immediately deleted and recreated if I find them immediately. Otherwise, screw it.) As I sit here drinking a cup of my incredible Gevalia Chocolate Mocha coffee (one of my few indulgences) I am thinking about the steps I have taken to improve my writing and thought it would be pretty awesome to share it.
First, you need to write and you need to read. You also need to not be afraid of Googling that word you aren’t quite sure you know the meaning of and the context it has been used in didn’t really give you much insight. If you enjoy learning new words, you can also buy one of those Word-A-Day calendars, or if you want to be more technical about it, you can sign up at http://dictionary.reference.com/ or http://www.merriam-webster.com/ to receive their word-a-day in your email. Go to your local library and, if you don’t already have one, get a card. Then start looking at the reference section on all things writing. (Trust me, it’s cheaper this way.) When you find books that you would like to have access to all the time, those are the ones you buy digital or physical copies of. Don’t worry, if you like highlighting, making notes, and bookmarking certain portions of books, you can also do so using most e-readers.
There are many ways you can educate yourself without having to pay for it.
Second, you know what authors you love to read. You like the style they write in, the point of view they’ve chosen, the adventure you’re taken on when you are so deep into the book that someone has to yell your name and shake you before you notice they are even there. So go searching on the world wide web and find out if they put out a newsletter. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Some authors are pretty awesome and will answer questions you send them. Also, there are authors who put out newsletters, who teach workshops, or have some form of boot camp. Sign up for the newsletters, check out the workshop information to see if it will work for you (don’t pay for anything without researching it) and go from there.
Third, look at Amazon.com (or B&N.Com, or whatever site you buy your books from) and find writing books that are geared for the type of writing you’re doing. Sometimes you can find deals where they are on sale and grab them to have and hold forever and ever. I love the Kindle App. I have it on my laptop, on my phone, and I use their Cloud Reader, too. It’s pretty awesome. (Make sure you read several reviews before purchasing anything. I am a firm believer in doing research before spending money!)
Fourth, if you can, find a writing group who is interested in new members. This can help you with having your writing critiqued and you can learn how to critique well. We want constructive, not destructive criticism. If you can’t find something constructive to say about someone’s writing, tell them it wasn’t your cup of tea, or shot of whiskey. Although, if you have good grammar and spelling skills, you could still help them with proofreading and asking questions when you didn’t understand something might help them see something they missed. (Authors know things Readers don’t and sometimes forget that.)
If you can’t find a writing group in your physical world then start looking in the digital world. I’ve recently signed up for Scribophile.Com and, while I haven’t earned enough Karma to post my own work, I have found people who are pretty amazing when it comes to writing and critiquing. They also have a section for some educational topics that are quite helpful. I’ve utilized this section many times. You have to critique in order to earn Karma points to post your own writing, but that just means you have to work for what you want. It’s easy to earn Karma points, I just haven’t spent enough time on there to do so at this time.
Last, if you have the extra cash, or can save the extra cash, look into taking a writing class or two. There is a local campus (literally 15 minutes away) that offers online courses through Ed2Go. While some people say that these classes aren’t real classes (meaning you only get a certificate and there aren’t any credit hours) I have found them to be quite helpful. I took a course called Writerrific and it helped me hunt down my Muse and drag him through a 6-week intensive rehabilitation to get him back into shape. Since then I have been writing my ass off (or at least writing a hell of a lot more now then I was prior to the class). Currently, I have signed up for Romance Writing. It was very difficult for me to pick the next course. I thought about taking Beginning Writer’s Workshop but I felt I was a little more advanced. Then I thought of jumping right into Advanced Fiction Writing or Write Like a Pro. In the end, I decided on the Romance Writing since that is the genre I am aiming for. I figure if I feel that I need more after this course, I can always save up the money and take another one.
I’ll tell you though, I learn just as much from the newsletters I am subscribed to as I do from the classes I take. Why do I take them? Because I feel that it’s a way to refine the skills I have into being MY skills. I don’t want to write like the authors I am subscribed to, I want to write in my voice and taking these courses help me find just that.
I’ve also subscribed to Writer’s Digest Magazine. I enjoy looking through the articles and interviews and so much more. I am a little irked with them because they do not offer a digital Kindle version, unless it’s on your phone, and while I have a larger screen, I don’t want to read a magazine on my phone. (Plus, for whatever reason, the app says I have to update and my phone says it’s up to date… so therefore it doesn’t work.) They do offer a digital PDF version, but that offer started after I signed up for the paper version.
Another, silly thing, I’ve done is downloaded a shitload of desktop wallpapers with quotes by authors. I love seeing these quotes when I boot it up. I have them change every fifteen minutes. I’ve also setup a writing area, and while not complete, I know that when I go there, I am supposed to be WRITING, and not screwing around on the world wide web. I also turn on Pandora and turn up the volume. I did a little Music vs. Silence forum post on Scribophile and found that while most people write listening to music, they edit in silence. It was pretty awesome to learn the processes of others.
I’m also a Scrivener for Windows 8 user. Yes, I did pay for the program, and I even did so before the trial was up. I highly recommend downloading the trial. It isn’t your normal type of trial, either. It is for 30 non-consecutive days and I even figured out that there is some sort of timing involved, because I swear I opened the program for, maybe, 3 – 5 hours one week, and didn’t lose a day. It was pretty awesome and was one of the reasons I chose to purchase it. You can find the software at https://www.literatureandlatte.com/. I promise, it’ll be worth it, but as always, research what is right for you. There are many other programs out there that you might prefer over this one.
Thanks for your time! Now get out of here and go write something. Why are you still here?