10 Tips To Improve Your Writing

10 Tips To Improve Your Writing

Writing tips are always a troublesome topic. The literature is very varied, which means that every more or less reasonable tip can be opposed by a great counterexample. To those who maintain that the most important thing is the power of synthesis, they show him the seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time , by Marcel Proust; To whom he proposes to respect orality, they bring him Río de las congojas, by Libertad Demitrópulos; The one who wants to eliminate the repetition, they launch The Naked Lunch , by William Burroughs.

As much as there are many creative writing courses promising the opposite, the truth is that nothing is solved in literature. An old joke says that half of the writers believe that it is impossible to teach writing; and that the other half agrees, but maintains that you can still charge for doing it. 

Decalogues and other writing tips

Despite all these contraindications, there are also many books, lists, decalogues, manuals, guides and cookbooks with writing tips. Some were even written by famous authors, such as the hilarious decalogue of the storyteller by Roberto Bolaño or Being a writer , by Abelardo Castillo. Finding something in common between all these texts is practically impossible; That is why there is nothing left to do but use another criterion, perhaps more reasonable: caprice. So we chose, among many creative writing tips, the ones that seemed most reasonable to us: 10 writing tips to improve your style.

10 tips to improve your literary style

1. Edit

Rarely is the first version of a text the best. Yes, it took Kerouac just twenty days to write his novel About Him On the Road , but then he spent six years editing it. Many authors recommend allowing some time to pass between writing and proofreading, in order to be able to approach the manuscript with a little distance. As Liliana Heker says in “The Ten Commandments of Writing” : the first version of a text is only a necessary evil. 

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2. Be consistent

Consistency in decisions is one of the keys to any literary style. Most of the traits that we identify as belonging to some author—Hemingway’s austerity, García Márquez’s overloaded adjectives, Leila Guerriero’s angular punctuation—are recognizable because they are systematically applied . We could say that two different styles are two different solutions to the same problems. Therefore, for a text to be read in a homogeneous way, it is important to set certain parameters (and then respect them). 

3. Avoid confusion

The characters may be confused; not so the author. In this regard, in his “Minims to be a writer”, Abelardo Castillo said: “Ambiguity is not the same as confusion. A story must always have a single ending. If you wanted to suggest two or more endings, those endings are a single ending: it’s called ambiguity. If no one understands you, it’s called confusion.” 

4. Discipline kills inspiration

Heker again: “Inspiration does not exist; in that it resembles witches. So, when the words seem to sing in one’s ear, and you feel that everything you are writing has the right music, the exact rhythm, the precise tension it should have, you can call that state of privilege whatever you like, but the best thing is to release the brake and let the madness roll. It’s beautiful, only you don’t have to believe that it’s the only state where literature is made. Because you run the risk of not writing more than one page in your whole life”.

5. Read

A lot, badly, soon, carefully, scattered, with a pencil in hand or behind the ear, in the bathroom, on the bus or under the dining room table; but read Roberto Bolaño meant something of this with his “Twelve tips for writing short stories” : read as much as possible, learn as much as possible, worry little about advice to improve your writing style . The history of literature is your toolbox, an immense tradition of resources and solutions. Sometimes it is not necessary to invent the wheel: it is enough to know where to steal it from. 

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6. Imitation is a form of learning

The first item of Horacio Quiroga’s “Decalogue of the Perfect Storyteller” says: “Believe in a teacher —Poe, Maupassant, Kipling, Chekhov— as in God himself.” And the third adds: “Resist imitation as much as you can, but imitate if the influence is too strong. More than anything else, the development of personality is a long patience. The idea is that in imitation there is always a share of learning, because it implies discovering how the thing that is imitated is made. No one knows Picasso’s style as well as the forger who was able to sign his name. 

7. Read aloud

A great way to revise a text is to try reading it out loud. Thus, you will be able to detect what sounds strange, uncomfortable or a bit far-fetched. Nowadays, it is also very easy to record yourself, so you can even listen to yourself several times and review the way what you wrote sounds. You can also use the readers of word processors, which sound less robotic every day. 

8. Find the right word

Synonyms do not exist. The personal dispute that Borges had with synonyms is well known, to which he dedicated a couple of poisonous paragraphs in essays such as “The language of the Argentines”, “The adjective” or “The infinite language”. The reason for this anger is very simple: Borges was opposed both to the unnecessary ostentation of the dictionary and to the belief that there is one word equal to another. Synonyms have the same meaning, yes, but they are still different words, and therefore they do not work the same. “Cara”, “face” and “face” refer to the same thing, but cannot be used interchangeably. 

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9. Spelling doesn’t matter. yes grammar 

At the time of writing, the unexpected absence of a couple of accents or a brief confusion between a “b” and a “v” (that is: a vrebe confusion) does not matter. Generally, those things are taken care of by the word processor, and ultimately by the proofreader.

But the grammar, the syntactic structure of the language, is something else. You have to know even the basics: agreement in gender and number, the standard use of verb tenses, some prepositional preferences. Know them, but not necessarily respect them.

Literary style can go outside of standard grammar; but to do it consistently, systematically, and effectively—as William Faulkner or Sara Gallardo did, for example—you need to know what rules you are choosing to elide. When Virginia Woolf abandoned traditional syntax in a novel, she always did so with a good grammar manual on her desk. 

10. Make up your own rules

Trust the authority of your judgment, what you like and what you don’t. That is the starting point to improve personal literary style: develop a set of more or less systematized whims. Ricardo Piglia always maintained that a style is little more than the certainty of having a style. If you want to improve your writing, identify that criteria—yours—and work on making it a habit.

Scoopearth Team


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