1. Write every day
Too many would-be writers sit around waiting for inspiration, then wonder why they’re not writing anything. Get into the habit of writing something, anything, daily. You’ll probably rewrite or delete most of it, but the point is to have something to work with. A few gems will emerge from the mass of your writing. Even the best writers never produce their work in a single draft; they will discard a lot of their writing or rewrite it substantially.
2. Learn to take criticism
It may be hard not to take criticism personally, but you’d better get used to it if you hope to make a living from writing. Everyone’s a critic nowadays, thanks to the internet, and you’re going to come in for some pretty scathing comments once your writing is out there, whether you blog or write novels. So don’t take it as a personal insult, but use the constructive criticism to improve your writing.
3. Work on the mechanics
Don’t overlook the mechanics of writing, such as good grammar. If an editor has to completely rewrite your work, they might as well have written the piece themselves. Work on improving your grammar and writing style; there is no shortage of style and grammar guides available online. Readers want to see well-written pieces using good English; getting the basics right respects both them and the English language.
4. Keep an Inspiration notebook
Most writers usually have several notebooks on the go. Keep a small one for inspiration, carry it with you, and jot down any ideas that occur to you straight away (if you wait, you’ll invariably forget them). Inspiration can be found in the most unlikely places, so be an observer and take note of what’s around you. Read through your notebook periodically, and see what ideas your jottings inspire for your writing.
5. Think outside the box
It’s not just the written word that can inspire a writer. Look for less obvious sources of awakening your creativity. Taking a drama class can be invaluable for encouraging the creative side of your brain. Many writers swear by walking in the countryside for taking them away from their routine and refreshing their mind.
6. Take any opportunity to write
If you wait for your muse to bring the perfect ideas, you’ll have a very long wait – and so will your readers. WRITE. Anything. Often. Don’t be precious about your ‘art’; even ‘writing for hire’ will help you polish your writing over time. And some very famous writers did their fair share of writing to pay the bills; everyone has to eat, and you never know what will arise from an unpromising opportunity.
7. … and read
It should also go without saying that an aspiring writer needs to read a lot. There is an abundance of writing available for free online, naturally of variable quality, but there is no excuse for not reading as much as your free time allows. Also make use of your local library. Try to work out what makes good writing; of course, that can be a subjective quality, but even if you don’t much care for a particular author you may still admire the quality of their writing.
8. Be concise
A tendency to be too wordy is the downfall of many an author. Equally irritating is the show-off tendency of some to want to demonstrate their knowledge of a subject they’ve researched for a novel. Being concise will improve your writing considerably. Look through your writing. Do you use flowery language where simplicity would be preferable? Are whole sentences unnecessary and add nothing to the story? Don’t be afraid to cut down what you’ve written to the essentials.
9. Consider your audience
Always bear in mind who you’re writing for. This will enable you to tailor your writing accordingly. You’ll lose your audience if you forget what they’re interested in or make them feel patronised. While you may want to express your own feelings, that should still be done in a way that resonates with your audience; never make the mistake of writing for yourself and not for your readers. They will be buying your books; you won’t.
10. Find your own voice
While there’s nothing wrong with being influenced by your favourite authors, beware trying to imitate them. It’s important to find your own voice, or you’ll only ever be a facsimile of someone else. Why should people take a chance on a new author if they have an established alternative? If you try too hard to be someone else, your writing will never be fresh and authentic.