Five Tips for Better Writing

Never assume you’re the best

The quickest way to become the worst at what you do is to assume you’re the best at it. Finally got an agent to love your work or have a publisher telling you your book is the next Harry Potter? Fantastic! It’s time to celebrate, but it’s not time to rest. It’s actually time to work harder. Writing is a fluid enterprise. Not only are rules and readers’ tastes constantly changing, but no person can ever know everything about this craft. Doubt me? Compare Stephen King’s first book to his most recent. He’s grown and changed over the decades and so should you if you want to succeed. Be humble so you can learn from others and be honest with yourself so you can write better tomorrow than you do today.


I know time is more valuable than gold to a writer. In addition to writing, you’re expected to play the roles of marketer, public relations expert, tour manager, blogger, and social media guru.  You also have a family and a job (because living off writing would require eating bargain peanut butter on crackers stolen from diners), so how are you going to find time to read? Try sacrificing a little writing time. As counterproductive as that sounds, it should help you write faster. Writers often learn best by studying other people’s work. As you read, you absorb sentences, images, story lines. You subconsciously decipher what works and what doesn’t and use that in your own writing, which cuts down editing. You don’t have to read a book a day, but if you read a few pages every night, you might be surprised by the result.

Learn grammar rules (so you can break them)

I can already hear you grumbling, “But I’m a writer, not an editor. My publisher hires/I hire editors for a reason.” I get that, but it doesn’t give you a free pass to avoid learning the rules. Why? First, your time is valuable. If you don’t understand basic grammar, you’ll be spending a lot of time editing, time that could have been saved by constructing grammatically correct sentences from the start. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than getting pages so covered in red ink that you can’t see the black below it. Of course, that’s if you even get that far. Most agents or publishers won’t look twice at a manuscript riddled with grammar mistakes. Readers are even stricter critics, so don’t think you can get away with it by self-publishing, either. Second, if your writing is broken up by poorly constructed or punctuated sentences, even the best story will read like a child’s third grade assignment and few people will want to read your next book. Third, a good writer has to know when it’s best to break the rules in order to create better flow or more impactful storytelling. The rest of your work must be clean in order for those moments to have meaning.

Get external feedback

Almost every writer is Hemingway in his or her own mind and the next James Patterson to Mom and Dad, but what is a writer to an unbiased reader? That’s the question you have to answer in order to succeed. Finding honest critique groups (vs. the “pat everyone on the back” type), beta readers, and even perfect strangers to read your manuscript and give constructive criticism is key to this process. It’s not easy to hear the truth sometimes and it’s harder to determine which opinions to use to create a better novel (not all feedback will be gold), but it’s necessary to call any work “done”. Your goal should be to break your writer’s bubble (the one all writers inflate while birthing book babies), not fill it with hot air. In the end, it will be better than waiting for reviewers to do it. One- and two-star reviews often harbor sharper knives than pre-publication critiques.

Feel for your characters

You must feel something for each of your characters in order for your readers to feel the same. Love them, hate them, pity them—whatever you feel will transfer to your writing. If you love them, the small nuances all lovers notice about each other will shine through. If you hate them, your sentences will carry the weight of that hatred, becoming sharp and hard. And if you feel nothing, your characters will lie flat on the page, no more alive than the paper holding your text. Subconsciously, you will lead your readers into their relationships with your characters—for good or bad. So if even one of your characters instills nothing in you, figure out why. Fix the problem or your readers won’t care, either.

Kristen spent her childhood at the feet of an Irish storytelling grandfather, learning to blend fact with fiction and imagination with reality. She lived within the realm of the tales that captivated her, breathing life into characters and crafting stories even before she could read. Those stories have since turned into over a hundred poems, several short tales, and five manuscripts in both the Young Adult and Adult genres. Currently, Kristen is completing the five-part Ærenden series from her home office in the suburbs of Washington D.C.

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  1. Thanks for hosting a stop on my blog tour!
    I'm celebrating my anniversary with my husband today, so I won't have access to internet, but if anyone has questiins, I'll be sure to answer them tomorrow :).

  2. Thank you - these are interesting and useful tips (I particularly love the advice to read: I knew it could be classed as working on my writing! This does help to justify my heavy reading habit though, so thanks again - I'm glad I read this).

    1. Always glad to help a reading addiction :).
      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post and for commenting!


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