Does writing novels intimidate you as a beginning writer? How about long-form content for online clients? Editing? Publishing? When you’re starting out in the writing world, everything looks so vast and scary until you chip it off, penning down one word after another.
Readers look up to writers as literary superheroes. Every writer has their special abilities, wielding vivid imaginations from their minds and powerful words that can literally punch somebody in the gut. How can you gain these skills? Here are 24 ways you can enhance your writing superpowers:
1. Block Distractions
It is time to block all distractions so you can get the best out of your writing sessions. Distractions include TV, video games, social media, your noisy phone, and even your WiFi. A study from the University of California-Irvine discovered it takes about 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus on a task. You need all the time you can get, especially if you have a full day with a day job and a family.
Concentration is an underrated skill. The more you use it with writing, the more projects you will be able to complete. You’ll feel like a writing god afterward!
2. Eavesdrop into People’s Conversations
Poking into people’s conversation at your local coffee shop or airport can help writers improve writing dialogue. This is certainly true if you are writing characters with Southern or Boston accents.
People do not talk like robots. Even the most sophisticated AI from a science fiction novel has more lively dialogue. A rather fine example of dialogue would be the runaway slave Jim from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:
“De bes’ way is to res’easy en let de ole man take his own way. Dey’s two angels hoverin’ roun’ ‘bout him. One uv ’em is white en shiny, en tother one is black. De white one gits him to go right, a little while, den de black one sail in en bust it all up. A body can’t tell, yit, which one gwyne to fetch him at de las’.” -Jim
Writing dialogue is a great skill. Use it consistently, and you‘ll be able to take readers into a new world with animated, rich-accented characters.
3. Frequently Edit
No matter how precious your first draft, there is always something you must cut out to make it better. Editing is both helpful for writers and readers. Whether you’re editing for grammar or story flow, you must ask yourself:
- “Does this make sense?”
- “Does your characters make it from point A to B correctly?”
- How did Character A know Character B was the killer with no hard evidence? Was Character A psychic?”
Eventually, you will be able to slice through the editorial process like a writing ninja.
What does cardio have to do with writing? We know exercise helps your body look better and feel better. Harvard Medical School clinical professor Dr. John J. Ratey discovered heavy-duty exercise increases blood flow to the brain, thus expanding the mind’s creative thinking ability. More exercise equals more writing.
5. Take a Vacation
Wait, how does this make you a better writer? Pack your bags and step away from the computer anyway.
Traveling to new places can give your mind a breath of fresh air and lets new ideas come flooding in. A traveling writer in Moscow witnessing a bank robbery may inspire them to write an international thriller. A trip to Chichén Itzá may lead another writer to create the next Indiana Jones-like adventure.
Writers going to distant places isn’t anything new. What do Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Edith Wharton have in common? They have all been to Paris. You can tell the city has been a source of their inspiration.
6. Live Life
Anything can be turned into a new writing project. Anne Frank wrote her life story in The Diary of Anne Frank. The King of Queens Street actress Leah Remini wrote her struggles in show business and dealing with a controversial religion in Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology.
Whether it is a 10-minute conversation with your neighbor or a shocking family secret you’ve uncovered in a recent family reunion, both can lead to writing. Merely spending time alone in nature can inspire you to write. Your childhood memories and favorite places can spark something too. Your life is your most significant source of writing.
7. Join a Writers’ Group
Joining a local writer’s group can help you enhance your writing. If you’re not used to sharing your works with the public, this is your best start. It’s also a convenient time to get used to writing critiques. Writers will have to deal with criticism as long they write, whether they are helpful or not. You can also learn some valuable lessons from other writers in these groups.
Don’t know where to find a writer’s group? You can find them on social media, your local library, or Meetup. It never hurts to ask where they are.
Journaling first thing in the morning or the evening can help you ease into the daily writing routine. You can write about anything, including your current mood, dreams, and fears. Journaling not only comes with unique mental benefits, but it also helps with writing flow. It’s something much needed for your works.
There are two types of writers in the world: pantsers and outliners. Stephen King and Margaret Atwood are famous pantsers. However, the way they start their writing process with mere images in their heads may not work for you. You need a plan.
Outlines are blueprints. You would not build a house without a blueprint, or it’ll come out as a complete mess. Outlines help you organize your thoughts. You can write non-stop because you already know where your story is going, especially if you’re working on a book series.
10. Practice Writing for Other People
As a writer, you’re going to write for other people. It can be paying or volunteer work. Both come with great benefits:
- Meeting people who love your writing
- Building an audience
- New opportunities arrive at your doorstep
- People want to work with you
Sharing your thoughts with people can lead to some valuable rewards.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss
To write, you must read. Reading expands your mind. You can’t be a writer if you don’t read. Scientists have discovered reading ignites the brain, exercising the center responsible for imagination.
12. Read Aloud to Yourself
What you read silently to yourself may not sound the same once you read it aloud. Imagine an audience watching your play with confusion at the performers’ choppy dialogue. You thought it was all right when you read the script to yourself, but it’s the complete opposite onstage.
Reading aloud is an effective editing technique. Do it as often as you can. Once it makes sense to you, it’ll make sense to your audience.
Writers need to sleep, period. They’re not immune from the consequences. The glorified hustle life of sleeping only 4–5 hours a day can be detrimental to your health. Think of your body as a cell phone; Eventually, it will need to be recharged.
Sleeping helps your brain clear toxins and creates room for new information. You’ll feel the difference between four hours of sleep and seven. How much writing do you think you will get done between the two?
14. Study What Interests You
What are your interests besides writing? Is it philosophy, New Wave French films, or ice fishing? Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters) graduated from the University of Chicago with a Ph.D. in Egyptology. Her love for everything about Egypt led her to write the Amelia Peabody mystery series. What grabs your attention can influence your writing.
15. Take Writing Courses
You can never stop learning how to write. There is always something new you can improve. You can take a college course on writing (online or offline), learn from YouTube, or your local library’s programs. There is more than one way to sharpen your writing craft. If there’s something in the writing realm you want to know, take advantage of the learning opportunities available.
16. Watch Movies
Perhaps there is some good to binge-watching Netflix movies. Movies can help writers create new story ideas, learn about rhythm, pacing, and much more. If you need help with dialogue, watch Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange or Diablo Cody’s Juno. Watching movies is not only for scriptwriters; novelists can also use them for writing references.
17. Participate in Hobbies Besides Writing
What do you do in your spare time? Taking some time away from your writing desk to play the piano or painting still feeds your writing creativity. Sylvia Plath was a beekeeper, and Leo Tolstoy played chess. All writers put their minds at play in one way or another.
18. Write a List of Ideas Everyday
Become an Idea Machine author James Altucher recommended listing 10 ideas every day. Why? You will never run out of creative ideas, even if they turn out terrible.
“I have lots of ideas. How do I pick the right one? Execute on as many as possible. The right idea will pick you.” -James Altucher
You can get ideas everywhere, from reading the daily news to playing Dungeons and Dragons with your weekend buddies. If you ever ask yourself what to write next, you can always refer to your idea lists. Regularly writing ideas will turn you into a bottomless well of ideas.
19. Write Daily
Alex Haley wrote every day before the world recognized him for creating Roots. Ernest Hemingway wrote every morning before he went off into his worldly adventures.
Do you have to write every day? Performing a repeated routine turns into a habit. Having a productive habit such as writing can undoubtedly lead to long-term rewards.
20. Publish Consistently
Publish the bad stuff, publish the good stuff. Prolific writers are those who consistently publish.
Some writers are afraid to publish their works. They fear harsh criticisms or rejection before publishing in the first place. The most powerful way to get through those fears is to publish anyway and move on to the next project. If you look at James Patterson’s and Danielle Steel’s bibliography, they have written more than a hundred books and have no plans of stopping.
Real writers keep publishing. The only way you fail is by stopping altogether.
21. Write for Breakfast
Write first thing in the morning. This is your breakfast, along with your French toast and coffee. Write before your workday or taking the kids to school. Write while you’re on your morning commute on the subway train. When you get your writing done first thing in the morning, you are already ahead of the day.
22. Write in Different Genres
Remember when bestselling vampire writer Anne Rice wrote about Jesus? It happened. Know Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? The classic children’s story was written by the same man who created James Bond: Ian Fleming.
Try your hand at a new genre. If you have been a sci-fi writer for the longest time, try romance. If you are a serial fiction writer, try your hand at non-fiction. You will never know what you can bring into a new literary territory.
23. Write Longer
Never written a 10,000-word novella? It’s okay to write more. Make sure to take breaks in between your writing sessions.
If your goal is to write 2,000 words a day for your book, you can divide it into four 500-word blocks or two 1,000-word blocks, depending on your schedule. Writing longer may be scary, but it will be worth it in the long run when you’re challenged with larger works.
24. Write Under Various Professions
Rarely anyone hits it off instantly in their writing career writing books. Suzanne Collins was a writer for Clarissa Explains It All and Clifford’s Puppy Days before making it big with The Hunger Games. Neil Gaiman was a freelance journalist before American Gods and Good Omens.
Work in various writing professions to tune your writing skills. If you are a full-time corporate copywriter, try blogging on the side. Work at home as a self-publishing romance writer? Dabble into some freelance content writing gigs related to the book publishing industry. The more hats you wear, the more you can shape your writing mastery.
There Are More Ways Than One to Strengthen Your Writing Powers
No doubt it takes time to build your writing superpowers. You were not born with it like some literary Superman. To develop your craft, keep up with new ideas, read, and overall, keep writing. Focus on your writing, and you will be unstoppable.
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