Keen to take your writing skills up a notch? Trying to take your prose from okay to extraordinary? Even experienced freelance copywriters can strive for continuous improvement. In fact, sometimes those who have been writing a while are more at risk of picking up bad habits, getting complacent or getting into a rut. New writers meanwhile may have plenty of enthusiasm, but lack experience and a certain finesse.
Ultimately, while anyone can blog, writing itself can be a bit more challenging. Writing for yourself is very different to writing according to a brief, for one thing. For another, in order to throw words around haphazardly, you first need to understand them intimately. Grammar is your friend, basically. Punctuation is, too. Developing a voice, perfecting your writing style and bringing together a nice flow are all important as well.
So, How Can You Nurture Your Writing Skills?
Some of the ways that you can learn how to write more effectively for your blog or budding freelance writing career include the following:
1. Be authentic. This sounds a bit lame, but is the absolute best advice that I can share after a decade of writing professionally. When I first started out, I tried way too hard, and it showed. Even when you are given a brief to write in a specific style or tone (approachable, light-hearted, business-like, serious or whatever), you need to write honestly. Be funny. Be precise. Be serious. Be trendy. But above all else, be yourself.
2. Read your writing out loud (in your head). Feel free to read out loud out loud, too – whatever works. By speaking your writing, you will be able to a) develop a conversational tone, and b) master the first point of being authentic. A conversational tone is basically writing that sounds like it is being spoken aloud. Once you start getting into the habit of saying your words in your head as/before/after you write them, it becomes automatic.
3. Do not rely on spell check tools. They are no substitute for human eyes, and may lead you astray. MS Word can be good for getting most of the most obvious typos out of your text, but it can be a bit useless at times. Ditto WordPress spell check and similar tools on other content management systems. By reading your words, you should be able to pick up those small, tricky errors that are often missed by spell checkers. Reading, rereading, going to make a cup of tea and rereading again is your best way to avoid overlooking mistakes. Even then, sometimes, a sneaky typo can slip through. It happens.
4. Write for fun. Write for the sheer enjoyment of using words. Write for yourself. Write to turn a dull topic into something interesting. By taking great relish in the writing process, you will consistently push yourself to new heights. It will become something that you truly enjoy, rather than a chore. And, when there is true enjoyment involved, writing becomes a lot easier.
5. Use tools when and as needed. Now and then, you may need a bit of help. There are many tools out there for growing your writing skills. Some are a bit redundant, while others take the focus away from the actual hard part, like writing. Avoid any tool that attempts to automate writing – article spinners, essay generators and those other nasty programmes are evil, terrible things. They will never help you become a writer. Instead, they will help you cheat. Tools that are useful on the other hand include synonym tools, thesaurus and dictionary tools, writing prompts, encyclopedias, search engines, books of all kinds and anything else that inspires, teaches and informs.
6. Use your imagination. This is what helps you become a creative, inspired writer. Whether you are writing copy for websites, packaging, business communication or your own personal blog, imagination is what will help you find the right words. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes, create a problem and solve it, set scenes, inject some imagery through words. Have fun with it.
7. Learn the basic rules of the written word. Grammar and punctuation are not just there for the hell of it. They serve vital purposes in writing, and that includes getting the point across correctly. It sucks seeing a bit of writing that is otherwise authentic and fluid, only to come across blatant typos, words used in the wrong context, commas in the wrong places and lazy grammatical errors. Ditto on content overflowing with slang and content that looks like it has been written by a teenager in text speak. Even William Faulkner got flack about his deliberate word abuse, and he did it very carefully, on purpose, extremely brilliantly.
8. Build experience wherever and however possible. New to writing? The only way to build up experience is to, well, write. Keep a journal, try some writing challenges, start a blog, submit articles to online directories, guest blog, write essays for the hell of it… just keep writing. This one applies to experienced writers as well, I might add. Especially those who writing for a living, and sometimes need to remember how to write for themselves, too.
9. Find inspiration. It is everywhere, really. Read more books (non-fiction and otherwise), read poetry, listen to music, take a walk, get outside, watch birds, keep visual inspiration in the form of Pinterest boards and magazines and mood boards, learn new words, think deep thoughts, meditate, get enough sleep, talk to people, listen. The world is full of ideas waiting to be discovered.
10. Learn, learn and learn some more. Take a course, teach yourself a new writing style, brush up your general knowledge, research your topics carefully (and extensively), read case studies and statistics, interview sources, feed your brain with knowledge until it is fit to burst. As a writer, you will NEVER stop learning. On the upside, you will be brilliant at pub quiz nights as well as being an annoying smarty pants know it all.
Whether you are planning on making the move from blogger to freelance copywriter, or you simply want to up your abilities, working on boosting your writing skills is an integral part of being a writer. Just like any other type of skill, nurturing is required on the regular to allow your writing mojo to blossom and bloom.