I think all writers want to be able to write better without the age-old tips of “just write more”. While that helps, these things can help more.
People talk so much about the different things you can do to write better. You can just write a ton, you can fill out plot charts and character profiles, read a thesaurus, skip editing altogether until you’re 100% done etc. But what about things you can do that aren’t even writing related that’ll make your writing better?
Here are a few things you can do in your free time that’ll give your writing an edge and add something more than just writing doesn’t.
1. Study Psychology
I didn’t go to college. I’m almost 22 and living a great life without having technically “furthered” my education. But one thing I decided to study and learn about on my own was psychology and it has helped my writing IMMENSELY. When you learn about how the brain works and why certain types of people behave a certain way, it can completely change the level at which you develop your characters. If you know just how a tragic event can alter someone’s psyche, you’ll be able to write them in a more realistic manner and it will make much more sense to the reader.
People often ask me when I tell them I’m a writer, “where did you learn to write” since they all know I didn’t go to college. I just say, “By reading,” and this is 100% true. When you get lost in a book and are really enjoying it, ask yourself why. Why is this book so captivating? What does this author do to grab my attention? When you are reading new material by many different authors, you’ll naturally and sometimes even subconsciously learn what to write in order to make your own book better.
So read a lot. Read often. And read different authors and genres because even if you’re not writing a horror book or a romantic book, you may have those elements within your story.
3. Meet a Lot of People
I know this can be really hard for writers in general because we have a habit to be introverts who enjoy nothing more than sitting in the comfort of our own homes and away from strangers. To be honest, I would rather talk to my characters than to real people, but that won’t help me be a better writer.
However, if you go out and talk to new people and hear their stories and experiences, it can really help provide you with inspiration for your own characters, and you’ll also hear about experiences that you’ll never have the opportunity to live – which can develop your characters, your plot, and more.
This will also give you material on writing new personalities for characters. Since we have a habit of writing what we know (because it’s more realistic this way), if you meet someone with a super interesting and unique personality, using them as inspiration can help you create a character you never would’ve been able to before.
4. Experience New Things
“Write what you know” is a popular phrase when it comes to writing advice and it’s true. But if you’re someone that doesn’t really do anything or go anywhere, what you know is going to be super limited – and so will your writing.
In order to branch out and make your writing more diverse, you’ve got to go out and experience new things! Go to that party, take that road trip with friends, hell, go get arrested! All of the crazy, dangerous, and even normal things that you experience will all come through in your writing and having more experiences will give you more things to realistically write about or work into a novel.
5. Learn About Different Cultures
The most incredible thing (in my opinion) about human beings is that we’re so diverse. There are so many cultures and religions that we don’t even know about and all of them can help you with your writing.
Why? Because you learn to be empathetic. One of the best qualities any writer can have is empathy. When you know how someone else feels or can put yourself directly in their shoes, that will be loud and clear in what you write since you literally have to do this for whatever your characters are going through.
The trouble is, many of us are so sheltered in our own cultures and beliefs that it’s hard to truly be empathetic and branch out emotionally. Learning about different cultures and the way others live their lives can give you a wealth of knowledge that can help make your writing unique, beautiful, and much better.
Now, this isn’t always an option for a lot of us because traveling is so fucking expensive! I live in the U.S. and let me tell you, there aren’t very many different forms of culture and cuisine. I have to drive at least 8-10 hours just to get somewhat of a different form of food. Which means that my knowledge of different people, places, and foods is pretty limited, which is why I plan on traveling a lot.
Traveling not only helps put you right in the middle of a new culture, but it’ll also give you more material to write about. Instead of just googling a picture of a certain area and describing it from that, you will have been there and can depict it much more realistically; the smells, the humidity levels, the sounds, the awe of the sights, the temperature of the breezes, etc.
You can find tons of advice on how to make your writing better that just involves opening a word document and just writing, or editing, etc. But with these things, you’re really making yourself a more well-rounded person, and THAT, in my opinion, is what will make you a better writer.