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10 Tools to Improve Your Writing

Today’s post was writted by Brandon Dahlberg.

There are plenty of items that may enhance the time you spend writing. Personally, I’m especially picky about the quality of my keyboards. But we can’t buy our way into being good writers. So, none of the tools listed below can be purchased on Amazon. Each is an intellectual tool, an internal mechanism or habit or skill that, if engaged, will improve your writing. 

1. Curiosity

Ask questions. More importantly, find the answers to the questions you ask. If you find yourself wondering what the difference between green and amber glass is, or if Eugene Debs had any pets, or how much of your state’s electricity comes from hydroelectric dams, then figure it out. If you don’t find yourself asking ridiculous questions, it’s a good idea to start. Developing a healthy sense of wonder and a desire for knowledge, no matter how trivial or absurd, will often lead to interesting stories. 

2. People watching

See what people look like, what they do. Listen to what they say and how they say it. Eavesdrop—you know it’s wrong, but do it anyway. Listen to what people talk about when they think others aren’t listening. Remember everything said and use it to create authentic human interactions on the page.  

3. Perpetual brainstorming 

Write all of your idea down in a notebook or on your phone. Try out sentences while you wait in line. If you have a great idea just as you’re falling asleep, wake yourself up and write it down. The work on writing you do in your head is just as important as the work you do on the page. 

4. Presence of mind

Notice everything around you. Pay attention to each of your senses. Be a witness. When you’re at the dentist, don’t think about how badly you want to be somewhere else. Take note of every sound. Describe each smell. See the brand of the overhead lamp, the hygienist’s watch, and so on. When you transfer a complete sensory experience to your characters, they become more fully realized. 

5. Interest in grammar

Maybe it comes easily to you, or maybe you were a terrible English student. Either way, if you’re putting words on the page, then you need to understand the mechanics that hold them together. Read through your style manual of choice at least once a year.  

6. Patience 

Writing a book takes time. Being a writer requires lifelong commitment. Some days will be harder than others. Be patient with yourself and with the process. Be patient with the people who read your drafts, who work with you and give you criticism. Take the time to polish your writing until you can’t find anymore problems. 

7. Love of reading

Read every day. Read in your genre, read the classics, read biographies and philosophy and everything else. Never stop doing this. 

8. Empathy 

Understand that everyone you see is as alive as you are. They have just as rich an interior life as you do. If you believe this, it will be reflected in the authenticity of your characters. Humans are complex and characters in a book need to mirror this in order to be real. 

9. Confidence

You have to believe in your ability to write and the value of your story. When it comes to the daily grind of working on your project, that confidence it crucial to keeping up momentum. 

10. Humility 

You’re probably not as talented as you think you are. That’s okay—writing isn’t the sort of thing you sit down and immediately master. It takes years of dedication to develop. So in the mean time, be prepared for criticism and rejection. Be tough enough to take it and be prepared to spend hours revising your work. It’s during that revision that your work improves and your skill develops.

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