Ways to Improve Writing

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Rewriting a book I first wrote when I was pre-teen has given me a unique perspective on how writing develops in a person who is serious creating fiction. I don't think non-authors can grasp how much goes in to writing a novel. Not only do I spend half my writing time researching, but I also work to continually improve my writing through feedback, edits, and critiques. Not that the stage I am now at is perfect, by any means, but I am amazed at how far I've come, even in the last ten years.

I'd like to share the main things I've learned as a participant on critters.org, Scibophile, and as an author and editor for Fantasy Island Book Publishing. I will also share a sample of CRAPPY old writing - and how I improved it.

Ways to Improve Writing:

1) Have someone who is not FRIEND or FAMILY edit your book, preferably hire someone if you have the money. There are so many things that authors miss in their own writing. It takes an outsider with a critical eye to catch them.

A good place to find an editorial service is through Publisher's Marketplace. They have a complete database:

2) Be aware of vague, redundant, and overused words and phrases. A fellow author told me recently about Pro Writing Aid, it's a web-based editing tool that alerts you to word choice and consistency in a selection of text you paste into it. I highly recommend it.

(sample report from Pro Writing Aid - this is of a version of my book I wrote in 1997:)

3) Join a critique group. As I said above, my favorite two are critters.org - which is for fantasy and science fiction writers, and Scribophile, which is for anyone.

Critters is an email-based queue for science fiction and fantasy novels, and there are similar systems for other genres on Critique.org. You have to edit other manuscripts to keep in good standing, and wait some time as your chapter or short story goes up the list. It is time consuming, but if you critique ten works you get to move to the top of the list.

Here's what the queue looks like:


Scribophile is another online critique website, and you can set up a basic membership for free, but to be able to post more than two chapters at once you need to buy a premium membership.

You also have to critique other people's writing in order to post your own, whether you buy the premium membership or not. You earn Karma points by posting more detailed reviews.

I found you have to be very active on either critique site in order to receive a substantial number of reviews. Both places the fellow authors were very helpful, and all have varying opinions, which I will get into in tip #4
4) Above all, I recommend every author to make it his or her priority to find their unique voice, and stick with it. Editor, critics, beta readers can all have differing opinions. I often find that one sample of writing will please some, and elicit many suggestions from others. No piece of fiction will please everyone. Be true to the story you intended, and how you intended to tell it. Sometimes it's okay if you make someone mad, or break some rules. Try to find an editor/proofreader who understands who you are as an author, and your target audience.

Without further ado, here is my *fantastic* sample (haha:)

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  1. Nicely summarized. Now I have much to think about!

  2. Some good points there and Pro Writing Aid does rock. Just wish I'd known about it years ago.

    1. It's a curse and a blessing. I'm making myself stay off of it until I get the entire novel re-written.

  3. Thanks, Danielle. I didn't know about all those things.

  4. Awesome help! You really understand how to bring the story out of the jungle that is our first draft!

  5. My pleasure Connie, the great thing is the critique sites are free for the basic membership, and so it Pro Writing Aid