1. Write. You need to do something a LOT to get good at it. That goes for everything, including writing.
2. Read. The best and only way to really study the craft. Don’t only read one type of books or one genre. Read a bit of everything. Study, reflect, analyze. To stay reading a lot always bring books with you. Keep books on your phone (if you have a smartphone), get a e-book reader like a Kindle.
3. Listen. How do people talk? What are they talking about? What dialect or slang are they using? This is necessary to write good dialogue, but also to be a decent human being in general.
4. Write something you like. To write a book or a short story really well you need it to be about something you LIKE to write about. Some say that you should write what you KNOW but chances are you’re a plumber who wants to write about Martians. Do that then. Don’t worry that you haven’t met any REAL martians.
5. Research. This especially important if you write about something that you don’t know a lot about. Getting the facts wrong can be very annoying to the attentive reader. It’s also fun to learn stuff. At least it should be!
6. Get a space where you can concentrate properly. Writing should be distraction-free. It might even make sense to turn off your Internet connection. I write best in crowded places where I don’t know anyone, like a random café or restaurant. For you it might be a cabin in the wood or in your writer’s room. Make sure not be disturbed though, otherwise you won’t get many focused words on the paper.
7. Save often to avoid computer crashes and data loss. Use version numbers like 1.2 or 2.0 or the date so you can revert back to previous versions if you’ve change your mind about certain scenes or chapters.
8. Don’t be afraid to delete sentences or paragraphs you like. Be hard on yourself. Can you live without that pun? Can the reader? Most often they can.
9. Rewrite and rewrite again. You need to polish a pretty rough stone into a sparkling diamond. It takes time, so have patience and be self-critical (if you’re in two minds about something, it might make sense to wait for feedback from your test reader group).
10. Get a core group of alpha and beta readers. They should be able to criticize your writing in a constructive way and help you get the most out of it.
That’s pretty much it. If I think of something more I’ll update this. Good luck!
I’d like to end with a quote from one of my writing style icons, Elmore Leonard:
If it sounds like writing, I’ll rewrite it.