There is no one way to learn how to write, but that is part of the beauty of writing. Here are a few tips for students who want to become better writers.
1. Write often and in different styles. The best way to improve your writing is to write as much as possible! Give yourself a boost with regular and varied writing practice, such as journaling, essays, stories, poems, blogs, and more. Perhaps the best way for students to work on writing is to free write, which is when you set a timer for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes at a time and write without stopping until your time is up. You can write about anything you like as long as you don’t stop writing–if you get stuck on what to say, just keep typing “I don’t know what to write” until you get unstuck. This exercise will really improve your writing flow with time!
2. Ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask others to read your writing. Your English teachers aren’t just there for grading school assignments–if you asked for their feedback on your own creative writing, I’m sure they would be happy to help. You can also get great constructive criticism from friends, family, classmates, tutors, neighbors, and more. You just have to ask, and you are likely to get back some surprisingly thoughtful comments, especially from people who enjoy writing and/or reading themselves.
3. Revise. Many authors never consider a draft of their work completely finished, even after it has been sent to the printers! Experiment with changing different parts of your writing, even with things you already like–you could very well find something you like even better. Just don’t forget to make a copy of your saved work every time and make edits on the copy. That way, if you don’t like the changes you made, you won’t lose all your previous hard work.
4. Reflect. Take a break from the writing to do some thinking. You should save your writings in a folder, whether on paper or on your computer, and occasionally take time to review and reflect. Ask yourself what you like about a piece, what you don’t like, and what you would like to change. Your writing folder will help you choose areas that you still want to work on, and will also serve as a rich source for new ideas.
5. Read. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on–or “read like a wolf eats!” as writer Gary Paulsen says. Read like a writer! Try to imagine why and how the author did something in a certain way and think about the techniques you use in your own writing. Use your favorite writers as models for writing practice. It may also help you to take notes as you read, because one of the funny things about writing is that it actually helps you think. If taking notes while reading feels like too much work, don’t worry about it–the reading is the most important part.
If you want more advice on writing, the following three books are the best place to look. Besides being much loved by aspiring writers everywhere, they are chock full of invaluable tips on style, grammar, and how to keep an audience engaged. My personal favorite is Stephen King’s On Writing, but Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White are also great.
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