10 Tips to Make Your Writing Better

{By Ellery Sadler}

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I’ve been writing short stories and half-finished stories and novels for about nine years now. I’ve read a number of books on the subject and found out a few things for my self just by looking over my own work. Writing can be a little crazy and confusing, so it’s always good to know 10 things to help you write better fiction.

 1.Stop Stressing So Much. All these books and articles and blogposts on the topic aren’t necessarily helpful. (Hypocritical I know, as I sit here writing one, but it is true.) Writing is the most important thing. So write. And then come back a few weeks or months or years later and review it. You’ll be amazed by how much you’re writing has improved in that time. (Trust me, I tried this with a book I wrote about a year ago that I now see needs about a million changes.) ‘Practice makes perfect’ is cliche, but kinda true.

 2. Cut the Speaker Attributes. He said, she said may seem boring but an abundance of he growled, she snapped, he grimaced, she whispered, he breathed, she groaned gets old and is amateur. If you can’t tell that she is angry by what she is saying, tacking on a ‘snapped’ at the end is not going to help. And if you can tell that she is angry by what she is saying, then a ‘she snapped’ will only weaken your dialogue. So generally stick to the almost invisible said, and your writing will read more professionally.

 3. Reach High (But Don’t Expect Too Much). So many writers, especially Christian writers get the idea that they have a divine calling to write (and maybe they do) but frequently this leads to unreachable expectations and the necessary intervention of miracles to achieve their ‘God-given’ destiny. God may be leading you to write a certain book or tell a certain story, but just because He is it does not mean you will be the next best-seller. So set goals, work to meet them, and watch God work in your life.

 4. No Need for Adverbs. A few adverbs sprinkled throughout your writing is fine, it can lend grace and style to it, but just beware of over-doing it. Go back over something you’ve written recently and cut all the -ly adverbs, and then reread it and see if it doesn’t sound better.

 5. Be Honest. If you are a home-educated student in mid-west America, it does not mean you have to write about a home-educated student in mid-west America. If you are a young writer in Paris or a struggling writer in New York City, it does not mean you have to make your books a journal. Make your books about who you are, about things you’ve experienced or learned or wish you had. Do be honest. Don’t be cliche.

 6. Character First. In life, character is vital. In books, it is the same way. Dozens of books have been written on the ‘well-rounded’ character and can leave writers’ brains in a jumbled mess of voice-journals, character pasts, motives, character quizzes and a whole variety of things that are supposed to make your character ‘rounder.’ But quite honestly, I have found that these things clutter rather than help me. So what I do is a think. (Ooooh, the unknown magic potion of the twenty-first century.) Just think about them and write about them, and eventually you will end up with some pretty cool characters.

 7. Fame and Glory. Oh the woes. There really won’t be that much fame and glory involved in this business. And your job is not to try to be famous and get glory. Your job is to write. If you would write, even if no one ever read your books, even if you were never published and never recognized for your writing, would you still do it? You will write better fiction if you aren’t focused too much on your audience. Don’t pander to the culture or your supposed age group. Write what you need to write, and your writing will be better. 

 8. Get Some Inspiration. Every writer I have ever met complains of writer’s block or hitting a wall or just getting bored with their work in progress. So get some inspiration. Read a classic, Fitzgerald or Dickens or Austen. (These people are still well known for a reason.) Watch a movie. Yes, I had to put that in there. Movies to me are inspiration personified. They are books that have been given a body. And they can be very inspiring.

 9. Take a Break. Maybe you’ve been writing until your fingers are cramped and your head aches, if that is the case, then take a break. A few days or weeks of breathing room is a good way to make your writing better. Space creates perspective, and perspective is power.

 10. WRITE. Yep, writing is the best thing you can do to improve your writing.