Before we roll into the basics of becoming a better writer, what are the benefits? Well, these are the few I could think of:
- It improves self-confidence: like with any other skill, becoming better at writing will improve your self-confidence, which will ultimately improve your all-round performance on routine tasks.
- It gives you an edge over other job seekers: many graduates have lost job opportunities due to poor writing skills and questionable oral communication skills.
- It makes a better thinker: the truth is, you cannot become a better writer without becoming a better thinker. Scary? For me, that’s the most rewarding part. Writing forces you to research on what you’re writing on, making you gain mental clarity in the process.
- It could lead you to find Love: Love is poetic. Writers love dating writers. My last date was a writer and writing was the spark (sorry for going personal)
The baby steps of becoming a better writer
Those are just a few of what you stand to gain from improving your writing skills. Let’s delve into a few useful tips that could make dreams come true:
- Stop abbreviating on social media: this tip wouldn’t have been needful years back, but the advent of social media has negatively disrupted how we write. Social media abbreviations are habit forming on the long run, and destructive to long-term goals of becoming a better writer.
- Learn the basic rules of punctuation: this can’t be over stressed. I’m still learning too. Get some free tips here http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation.asp
- Read great writers: you can’t become great in any discipline without learning from those that came before you. If you haven’t read any of Achebe or Soyinka’s work, it’s never too late. It will give you a springboard. Writers often start by emulating their favourite writer’s piece. I started out as a poet by plagiarizing the work of other poets like C. Okigbo, J.P. Clark, and David Diop.
- Write a lot: you can’t learn how to swim without getting into the water. Like any other skill, writing gets better with practice. Write for yourself, write spontaneously, and always carry a writing pad around. You never know when your best ideas might “flash”.
- Experiment: just because you want to emulate great writers doesn’t mean you have to be exactly like them. Try out new things. Steal bits from other people. Learn how to rephrase. Rephrasing is a very important skill, especially for poets, if you want your end words to rhyme. Learn to paraphrase too. Every beginner writer (provided you don’t remain one for long) plagiarizes. Paraphrasing will make it less obvious. They are so many other ways to experiment. Find your niche.
- Learn new words: A colourful writer must have a vast arsenal of words. Try to learn a new word every day. When writing, your vocabulary might still come across as plain. Use the synonyms section of your dictionary to substitute very common words in your piece. It gives your writing more depth. This trick comes in handy when trading words.
- Be concise: A good write up has no unnecessary words. It is always concise and straight to the point. Remove any word(s) that doesn’t add value to the sentence.
- Revise: Revising is much work. It is also what separates great from mediocre writers. Humans are prone to errors. Revising will reduce your chances of putting out badly written articles. The rule is to revise thrice. Immediately after you finish writing, thereafter, with a software, if possible (I use “Grammarly”), and a few days after you first wrote it. You’ll be surprised at how mistake-riddle and probably incoherent your piece was.
- Use powerful and direct sentences: aim for shorter sentences with strong verbs. Every sentence can’t be the same, but shorter sentences are preferable to longer ones.
- Plan, then write: the best writings are often planned out before pen is put to paper. Brainstorm and outline before delving into the task at hand. Let’s say you want to write about why the NYSC should be consolidated. paragraph one could be devoted to its history; two, to its successes; three, to its challenges; four, to the reforms it desperately requires to improve its service delivery to the nation
- Abhor external stimulants: some famous writers and other “creatives” are often notorious for their inclination to augment their abilities with caffeine, alcohol, and narcotics. The best writers write when sober. On the long run, the law of diminishing returns catches up on stimulants usage. Also, the development of the brain for optimal productivity might be interfered with.
- Keep a clear conscience: this is the greatest of the tips; a clear conscience is your sole pass to the realm of the supernatural, where they are no impossibilities. The greatest writers, painters, leaders, musicians etc, kept this under wraps as their little secret; but now you know; so go forth and put pen to paper in excellence.
- It takes time: becoming a better writer doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and lots of feedback. If your first piece doesn’t get publish, don’t give up, use it as a learning experience and ask the Editor why your work didn’t make the cut. Most of the bestsellers today were first turned down before they became masterpieces. Don’t ever lose Faith on your voyage to the zenith of being a better writer.better writer