When you're devoted to becoming a better writer, there are methods to hone your craft, clarify your themes, deepen emotional resonance, and revise effectively. Most people have strengths in their writing, such as descriptive language, and some weaknesses, such as muddy structure or stereotypical characters. To begin, you must identify your weaknesses and then work on those few areas in which many new and seasoned writers falter.
The process of writing unfolds differently with each individual, yet there are general stages that each piece of writing goes through. The first stage is brainstorming where you have disordered ideas vying for attention. If you never struggle for these seeds, consider yourself lucky. If you sometimes lack enough material to write about, keep an idea journal. Jot down seemingly banal things, such as a conversation you overheard in the theater line or scraps of a story about your aunt's vegetable garden. Paste newspaper articles that catch your attention. Widening your pool of subjects certainly makes you a better writer.
Once you have a clear idea for your piece, scribble down key images, dialog exchanges, or treatment of characters. These might be jumbled or confused, but it's important to record them before they slip away. Next, if your piece is narrative or persuasive nonfiction, it should follow a basic structure. To ensure a logical organization, outlines are helpful to fill in holes in plotline, arrange your arguments, or provide a plan for beginning the bulk of the writing. An outline can be sparse, only mentioning how the central conflict gets resolved, or very detailed, with character descriptions and chapter by chapter explications.
Some writers insist that the most common mistake, and therefore the greatest challenge, is to skip a thorough editing. Editing and revising is much more than correcting grammar and spelling mistakes or switching a few sentences. Revising should take as long, if not longer, than completing a first draft. Another writer or close friend can give you suggestions.
Become a better writer by reevaluating your structure, from overall plot down to sections, and finally focusing on paragraphs, sentences, and phrases. Every word in your piece should be there for a reason, and you should know the reason. Seeing improvements to your writing will encourage you by proving that you have made progress. After several editing sweeps, make sure to look back on your first, shaky draft to see that editing is well worth the effort.