While writing style is ultimately crafted through time and experience, this post focuses on the 7 most fabulous of fabulous ways you can improve your writing in a more focused and productive direction rather than through mountains of trial and error.
1. Create Your Writer’s Asset List
Regardless of how long you’ve been writing, from one day to one lifetime, sit down and compile a list of all your assets as a writer. The exercise is about providing perspective that oftentimes is lost to those who don’t approach these things systematically.
Here are some questions to get you started.
- What kinds of essays/papers have you written before? Keep it simple, but do give yourself a visual representation of everything you’ve accomplished.
- How fast are you?
- What are your grammatical strengths?
- What are the defining characteristics of your writing style presently?
- What are you the best at writing?
2. Cut, Clip Shave and Destroy
It’s called “killing your darlings” and the practice is valuable beyond words. You start to see how much of your writing is fluff and filler. You begin to see how to write more directly, rather than being overly descriptive or beating around the bush because you’re unsure of yourself.
Write a paragraph about something, anything will do.
Then, go through it word by word and get rid of EVERYTHING that isn’t absolutely necessary to make the point and keep the sentences cohesive. Once you find the core, then you can sprinkle your own twists on things that reveal your style.
3. Take Any Focus off of Yourself
Are you writing for yourself? That’s like an educational speakers speaking to hear themselves talk. It doesn’t resonate well and sends many of the wrong signals. Who are you writing for? What’s the point? What’s the end-goal? Your writing style is expressed most naturally when you aren’t trying, right? Take the focus off yourself and put it elsewhere, thereby allowing your style free reign.
4. Regard the General Intonation of Your Writing
Rather than trying to look at style in a compartmentalized fashion, pay attention to the overall vibe or intonation of your writing. Remember, the vast majority of human communication is through intonation, or how we say things, not what we actually say. Most of the time when we talk about writing “style” we’re really referring to your intonation. Address is from that angle to streamline the process.
5. Study Writers
Try studying writers outside your comfort bubble. Keep in mind that these authors are processed goods. That paperback is the commercial literature equivalent to a Twinkie. They’ve been heavily edited and proofread by people that make insane amounts of money. Their personality is like iron.
Go for someone, anyone, above your age with TONS of personality. Want an example? Ok, try Russel Brand, or perhaps Matt Taibbi. You can’t expand style without new, foreign and alien input. Pay special attention to any genre that makes you uncomfortable, because there’s likely gold in there for you.
6. Actually Study the Science of Creativity
If you study the science of creativity you’ll see that you probably have far more of it than you might think. If your style seems stagnate, you need to sit down and take a look at how creativity really works. #5 touched on it, but you can take it much further than that.
Creativity comes from quasi-random “mutations” (if you will) when two really unrelated or oddly paired things meet. Put yourself and your mind in places you’re unfamiliar with on a constant basis and then absorb tiny bits of info. This will shape a truly fabulous writing style.
7. Make Rephrasing a State of Mind
Isn’t style the ability to take a dry sentence and turn it into something more engaging? Isn’t the ability to take a dry sentence and inject your own personality into it? With that being said you should make it a constant background practice for your mind to rephrase and reword things you read in passing or directly.
If you devour a post that blows your mind because of the style, then rewrite it in your own words. If you read an advertisement that impresses you, then rewrite it. The more you practice taking things and molding/shaping them in your own voice, the more your own style will reveal itself and evolve.
What about you? What writing tools are you willing to share? There are so many different takes on this subject, probably as many as there are students. Some tools and tips work better than other, so out with it! What are your top 3?