How to Become a Better Writer

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We’re always excited when a new issue of Writer’s Digest hits newsstands—especially when it’s delivering something our readers have specifically been asking for. So we’re especially jazzed about this week's release of our March/April issue and its theme, “Make Your Writing Stand Out.” Whenever we poll the writing community, time and again we find that writers of all types and skill levels agree on one thing they can’t get enough of: tips and techniques that can help them learn, simply put, how to write better. And this issue is full of them!

March/April 2012 Writer's Digest | How to Become a Better Writer

Here’s a preview of a few of my favorites:

3 Tips for Better Writing

1.Avoid overdoing themes. Rather than building your story around a theme (love, forgiveness, freedom) or advice (“Follow your dreams”) or a cliché (“Time heals all wounds”), drive your narrative forward through tension and moral dilemmas. So, instead of using the theme “justice,” let the events of the story pose a more engaging question: “What’s more important, telling the truth or protecting the innocent?” Rather than giving the advice, “You should forgive others,” let your story explore a dilemma: “How do you forgive someone who has done the unthinkable to someone you love?” —From “5 Story Mistakes Even Good Writers Make,” by Steven James

2. Go beyond the five senses. The best authors add texture to their work by using body language in their narratives. If you read up on body language, you’ll find that two things are at the root of all of it: anxiety (or lack thereof) and hidden desires. Consider this:

Brian paused and lit a cigarette. He exhaled a stream of smoke at the window.

That doesn’t tell anything about the character. If Brian needs a cigarette, use the moment fully:

Brian paused and lit a cigarette. He held it close to his body, as if he didn’t want to take up too much space. He exhaled a stream of smoke at the window, avoiding Anne-Marie’s eyes.

We learn something about what’s going on with Brian here, without having to plow through an internal monologue from him or Anne-Marie. —From “7 Simple Ways to Make a Good Story Great,” by Elizabeth Sims

3. Customize your own searchable database from your research. Whether you’re conducting research for fiction writing or for a factual piece, it’s details you’ll find that will lend life to your story—but only if you can find them when you need them! Because computers have search functions for locating files as well as wordsin the documents themselves, it may be worth your time to scan in articles or chapters you’ve turned up in your hard-copy research. Digitizing these documents will allow you to search for keywords and scan through weeks’ worth of reading instantly to find that reference you thought you saw. —From “Research Like a Pro,” by Charles J. Shields

This is just a taste of what this issue has to offer—so if you like what you see, be sure to stop by your newsstand (or our online shop) to find these complete articles, alongside plenty more great advice to help you become a better writer. You can also download the whole issue instantly here.

Free Issue Giveaway: Share Your Tips on How to Be a Better Writer

Win a copy of our March/April issue! Simply leave a comment on this post sharing the best quick tip for better writing that you’ve heard or read recently. Then check back next Monday to find out if you’ve won!

Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer’s Digest

Follow me on Twitter: @jessicastrawser
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