How to Write Well (Even if You’re Not a Natural)

Writing is an intimidating process for most people. There’s a popular illusion that good writing is reserved for those people who have dedicated their educations to it. Many potentially great writers are turned off by writing because they hated English class in high school or they haven’t had the opportunity to hone their writing skills.

I’m going to shatter your world right now: You don’t have to have to be an English major to write well. You don’t even have to have taken an English class, really. I got a D in English one semester of my junior year of high school. I don’t have an English degree or an MFA. BUT, I’ve been writing since I was a kid and that practice is responsible for developing my writing ability. I write well enough now to make a living by my words, and isn’t that what most writers want?

Sure, it helps to love language and be interested in manipulating it, but what you really need (what you really, really need) is something to say. If you have nothing to say, all of the grammar in the world won’t save you. Good grammar doesn’t make for a compelling story. When’s the last time you said, “Man, the grammar in that book/article was awesome! I mean, it was just off the chain in its raditude.” You get sucked into the story, not the author’s clever use of semicolons. Don’t be intimidated by the folks with the fancy book learnin’—anyone can write well. Here’s how:

Read everything you can get your hands on, from ads in magazines to the latest bestseller. As you read, pay attention to the flow, the writing style and the author’s choice of words. This will help you form your own writing voice.

Practice whenever you can. Carry a notebook with you or use a note app on your smartphone to write whenever the urge hits or set aside 10 minutes or so each day to write. And don’t forget to use any down time to your advantage. Even waiting in line for your coffee can offer writing gold! Write about what’s happening around you, your thoughts as you wait in line or write about the people in line with you. The best scene and character sketches are born out of writing about our surroundings.

Join a writing group or take a writing workshop. If you have friends who like to write, form a writing group and meet once a week to exchange ideas and read one another’s work. Also, check the local community college or online groups to find an upcoming writing workshop.
If you follow these tips and practice what you’ve learned, you’ll learn to write better in no time. It may sound cliché, but practice does indeed make perfect so get writing!

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.
– Ernest Hemingway

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