How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

How can you tell if your writing is improving? Sometimes you’re so enmeshed in your writing, you can’t tell if you’ve improved, gotten worse, or are treading water! So, here’s a list of qualities of excellent writing, to help you measure your progress.

How to Tell if Your Writing is ImprovingFor excellent writing advice, read A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves. This book provides writers and would-be writers with stimulating topics, helpful instruction, monthly guidelines, dozens of inspiring quotes, writerly lore, and tips for special writing sessions such as marathons, cafe writing, and other ways to make the work of writing more creative and fun.

“Advice to young writers?” says Doris Lessing. “Always the same advice: learn to trust our own judgment, learn inner independence, learn to trust that time will sort the good from the bad – including your own bad.” If those aren’t practical writing tips, I don’t what are!

With time, you’ll get better at distinguishing between good and bad writing. It’s easier to judge other people’s bad writing, but you’ll become skilled at recognizing not only your own poor writing, but how you’ve improved over time.

How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

This list is from A Writer’s Book of Days (Reeves’ list was called “How Can I Tell If My Writing is Improving?”; this list is a slightly modified version). It’s a fabulous book about writing, and offers everything from inspirational writing quotations to writing prompts.

You can tell your writing is improving if…

    • Your verbs are lively and diverse.
    • You stay with one topic long enough to explore it, rather than verging off into digressions that go nowhere or jumping from one thought to the next. You are a more patient writer.
    • Your sentences vary in length and structure.
    • You’ve eliminated generalities; you write in specifics (writing in specifics is one way I know my writing is improving. For instance, yesterday in an MSN Health article about food and appearance, I deleted the word food and inserted “apples, avocados, and almond milk”).
    • You don’t overwrite, nor are you stingy with words.
    • You write naturally, with less self-consciousness (read 5 Tips for Finding Your Writer’s Voice).
    • You easily fall into writing about the topic and begin writing without hesitation; you don’t stop to think or consider, you just keep the pen moving.
    • Instead of putting a period at the end of a sentence, you put a comma and take the thought further (caveat: run-on sentences aren’t a quality of an excellent writer!).
How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

  • You write in the active voice (another great writing tip that I’m sure you’ve heard before!).
  • You save the strongest word for the last in the sentence (can someone explain this to me? I’m not sure I understand how this makes you an improved writer).
  • You take more risks.
  • You include “delicious” details.
  • You don’t rush through to get to the end, but take your time, lingering and savoring. Letting the tension build. (but, don’t let your writing drag on and on….wordiness means your writing hasn’t improved).
  • You’re willing to experiment, to go to unknown places in your writing (read How to Make Your Writing Edgy and Quirky).

“As for that idea that ‘practice makes perfect,’ it’s a lie. There is no perfect, only better and sometimes very, very good,” writes Reeves at the end of her list of ways to tell if your writing is improving.

For more info about the craft of writing, read Writing Great Leads and Hooking Readers.

Fellow scribes, strive not to be perfect, not to be a bestselling author, and not to be a famous poet. Simply strive to be as good as you can be.

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