Dear Liza: How Do I Improve My Writing?


Dear Liza,

I really enjoy writing but I suck at it miserably. Any tips? I love your writing style!


Why thank you, that's really nice of you to say!

First of all it's great that you enjoy writing, because it will make my advice so much easier. Enjoying it is half the battle, although don't worry if there are days when you want to throw your laptop/pen/[insert writing utensil] out the window. That happens to everyone.

It sound trite but really the best advice I can offer is just practise practise practise. It was starting this blog that allowed my writing to flourish, those early awkward attempts seem laughable now but it was all I could write. My posting schedule has fallen by the wayside recently with a busy university life but for at least a year and a half I was posting three times a week consistently. Some were terrible, some were okay, but all were a great chance to practise. The more you write, the more you find your natural style and that's definitely a key part of this whole writing business. 

Another really brilliant way of improving style and vocabulary is to read as much as you can and as widely as you can. Not only will it introduce you to words you may never have heard before, you will also find yourself incorporating elements of what you're reading into your own work. Any good writer is a beautiful combination of their inspirations, even if it's not a conscious process. 

You may read this and thinking "reading and writing - that's all you have to offer?!" but I've talked to novelists and I promise you that's what they say too. There's no substitute for consuming and creating, and as you go you'll find what fits you. Personally I love alliteration and I sometimes feel like I can taste the richness of the sentences that my brain offers to my eager fingers. They arrive fully formed and I jot them down wherever I can, ready for it to turn into a post or a poem or a section of my novel.

At other times it's a painful process of inching out paragraph after paragraph, but I still try. I took a creative writing class and one week the only chapter I could offer my classmates involved my character sat at her desk with writer's block. The very process of articulating the frustration I felt pushed me forward, and the following week I had the words that I had always planned to write, but that couldn't have come without pushing through.

Remember Ernest Hemingway's wise offering: the first draft of anything is shit. I was listening to a podcast with Ed Sheeran recently and he said that he writes hundreds of songs for the fourteen or so that end up on an album. You really do just have to keep at it until it gets good. Create and revise and practise and soon it will get there. 

Good luck! Writing is fun and hard and it's a beautiful thing that we can all put out our creativity and thoughts into the world through the written word. I'm sure you'll write beautifully, just keep trying. 

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