8 Ways to Improve Your Writing

Written by Emily Harstone | July 2, 2015

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway

Most writers want to improve their writing but they don’t necessarily know how. Some writers are happy with the way they currently write, but in my opinion there is always room for improvement.

In my own writing practice, I am always trying to improve my ability to write.

When I was in college, I was convinced that a Masters of Fine Arts degree in writing is what I would need in order to improve as a writer. I don’t know how I got locked-on to that idea or how it became so powerful in my mind, but it did.

I did attend an MFA program and graduated from that program. During that two year period I learned a lot, but most of what I learned I could have obtained elsewhere or on my own. And even after that period was over, I still had a lot to learn.

Writing is a practice, a lifelong apprenticeship.

In this article I talk about some of the ways one can continue to improve ones craft in concrete ways.  Some of these options may work better for you than others, but there are all sorts of options to consider.

All of the options I offer are inexpensive (a Masters program is not) and geographically flexible.

Join a writing group
A writing group is a community of writers that meet every few weeks or once a month and provides individual feedback on pieces. Writing groups can give you good consistent feedback on your writing. They can also keep you accountable and challenge you to improve your craft. If you are interested in learning more about how to find the right writing group for you, this article can help.

Focus on a particular element of craft
Sometimes you know where your weakness lies as a writer. Perhaps it is with character development. Maybe it involves plot. Or sometimes you are less sure. However, it can always be helpful to practice one element of craft at a time. Try writing a short story or a poem and only focus on narrative. Or, write three paragraphs developing a character without ever using adverbs. These little writing exercises can really help overtime.

Participate in a writing challenge

Writing Challenges usually involve intense periods of writing. Challenges can be genre specific and they can be fun but they can also permanently improve your skill as a writer. You can read more about writing challenges in this article. One of my favorite specific challenges is outlined here.

Read a book about writing
There are a lot of good books out there by famous writers and not so famous writers that talk about elements of craft, ways to improve ones writing, and how to become a successful writer. I have even compiled a list of some of the books I have found most helpful.

Take a local writing class

Writing classes are great. They can often be very reasonable. Some are run by independent bookstores, literary centers (like the Loft in Minneapolis), or through community colleges or universities. Classes can give you great feedback, provide you with a good mentor, and connect you to the writing community in your area.

Take an online writing class
If you can’t find a good local writing class or your schedule is not flexible enough , there are some great online options for classes. You can learn more about some of them here.

Read a larger range of work
Reading is incredibly important. Most writers start out as readers, but that is not always the case. Even the writers I know who are often writers get stuck reading their favorite writers and emulating their style. Or they become particularly keen on a specific genre and that influences their writing.

I think it is very important to read widely. To that end, I read books that could fall under almost any genre, and I read a lot of non-fiction. Even if I don’t like a writer or a particular book, I will try to finish it, because you never know what book, or even what part of it, could really inform your writing. Sometimes just a sentence could be key.

Experiment with writing prompts
There are so many sites out there devoted to prompts, little exercises that help start your writing. Prompts can be very helpful. Not only can they get you writing but they can start you writing in a different way then you usually do. One of the most helpful prompts I know is this one.