That you’re reading this means you want to be the next JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman. If novels aren’t your thing, there’s short stories and magazine articles. So how’d you done that?
- Start Small
Don’t try to write the next Game of Thrones series when you’re still struggling with your first manuscript. For magazine articles, it means not covering complex topics when you don’t even have a portfolio.
In the first case, you’re trying to fly before you can even crawl, and in the second, it means you’re asking magazines to take a chance on you before you’ve proven yourself.
- Write What You Know
A murder-mystery-thriller-romance set in Mughal India might get you excited, but what do you really know about Mughal India and how well can you write a murder-mystery-thriller-romance?
There’s nothing wrong with writing about mundane things – most novels are set in ordinary places. It’s not what you write about, but how – and the more familiar you are with the topic, the better that comes across to readers.
With that as your starting point…
- Read Lots
What made you want to be a writer? What book/s made you think, “Gosh! I want to write, too!”
Whatever it was, there must have been something about the writing that drew you in. You might love detective novels, but that doesn’t mean you fell in love with every one you read.
The more you read, the more you get a feel for different styles – so pay attention to what works for you, what draws you in, what keeps you turning the page, and staying up all night.
How similar is an author’s style to yours, if at all? Is there one you want to copy or adapt? How could you tweak yours so it’s better?
The next time you read a (good) book, don’t just focus on the story. Pay attention to the technique – especially if it draws you in. Is the dialogue good? If so, why? Does it seem natural or forced? How are sentences structured?
Writing is a skill developed over time and honed through comparison. You must therefore read books as if you were already a writer – paying close attention to what makes good writing and what sucks.
- Know The Basics
Writing is technical, so all good writers have books on dialogue, punctuation, grammar, etc., and many attend writing workshops regularly. A dictionary and thesaurus are also musts – especially since English spelling makes no sense.
Unless you have this technical foundation, your writing will be bad. The more errors people notice, the less they can focus on the message – jarring them back to the reality they’re trying to escape.
So while creativity and an artistic style is crucial to writing, it’s useless without a proper education on the basics. Good writers are also good students – always learning to improve their craft.
All good writers write daily because it’s good exercise and they enjoy it. Stephen King says that whenever he gets writer’s block on a novel, he’ll write something else till inspiration strikes again.
Brain scans show that such people literally rewire their brains! Compared to the novice brains, [those of] expert writers showed additional activity in the caudate nucleus, which is responsible for automatic functions, and the Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas, which deal with language and word formation.
So keep writing till you rewire your brain and it becomes second nature!
- Be Your Audience
Many believe that what is glaringly obvious to them, must be so for others. Not so.
What’s in your head has to be put into words and in a way that others can understand. That middle step—writing—is where it can go wrong.
Don’t assume your readers know what you’re thinking or how the story must go. Always think: “Would they get this? Can they follow? Can they connect the dots I’ve laid out?”
- Reread And Edit
God made Adam first because all masterpieces need a scratch. The same is true for writing. Reread what you wrote, edit as needed, and rewrite as often as you have to because there’ll always–always-ALWAYS be mistakes!
Even seasoned writers have proofreaders because it takes a second pair of eyes to catch errors and make improvements. In other words, they become the audience the writer is trying to reach.
- Read It Aloud
Eloquent speakers can be lousy writers and great writers can be awful speakers. This is because written and spoken language are controlled by different parts of the brain. According to neuroscience, “written and spoken-language systems are considerably independent from the standpoint of morpho-orthographic operations.”
So read what you wrote out loud. The closer it comes to natural speech, the better those hearing it can follow because we’ve been a verbal species for far longer than we’ve been literate.
In other words, great writing makes readers less aware of the writing and more aware of the message.
 Sproule, Giselle. “The Science Behind a Writer’s Mind.” Craft Your Content, 19 Apr. 2018, http://www.craftyourcontent.com/science-writers-brain/.
 Kellogg, Carolyn. “Writing and Speaking Come from Different Parts of the Brain, Study Shows.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 13 May 2015, http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-writing-speaking-brain-study-20150513-story.html.