Rest before editing a long or complex written work. When you finish writing, set it aside. After a day or two, read it again. This is a good time to check for spelling and punctuation errors. Once that task is done, set it aside and work on other projects for about a week or two, at least. This time, read it for sentence structure, word usage, consistency and other grammatical problems. Work on correcting those then leave your work. After another week or two, read it for style and flow, and improve on those. Once you are done, you might select a few trusted and capable friends to read your work for you. “Capable” is very important here because you want someone with a keen eye for details, a good grasp of language, and familiarity with good literature. Listen to comments and suggestions objectively. Don’t argue any points with them, rather, ask for clarification if you wish. If you argue with them, you might put them off and they will not be willing to read for you any more. Instead, check your work and see if you agree with their comments and suggestions. If you do, make the changes. If you don’t, you can either ignore those suggestions or get a second opinion. Or,you can simply use the suggestions to guide you in making changes the way you want.
Not all writers will need to go through this process over several weeks or even months, but if you are new to writing complex works, it might be best to follow this editing and revising process. As you become more skilled as a writer, your style will develop and your work will flow smoothly. Nevertheless, you will still want to consult a reader, proofreader, or editor if you know you have certain weaknesses, such as seeing your own mistakes.
Don’t worry about mechanics at the start. If you worry about the mechanics or technical aspects of writing from the onset, you will most likely get bogged down and lose your trend of thought. What are the mechanics you shouldn’t worry about at the start? Spelling, punctuation, usage, sentence structure, and typographical errors. These are things that you can always go back to after you’ve put all your ideas down on the page. Many famous writers owe their editors for the polish and cleanness of their works. I even have it on good word that some popular writers can’t spell very well! What is important is to get the ideas written. Your ideas are what make your work original and interesting. Remember first and foremost that you are a writer and not a proofreader or an editor.
Compare. Pick any one thing to write about and make as many comparisons as you can. This is good for helping you to develop original metaphors that you can later use to create extended metaphors. It doesn’t matter if you start with a few cliches, because once you get those out of the way, you will have to start thinking of new ways of comparing things. If you have a hard time starting, start with obvious things, then move on to the less obvious. It’s okay to stretch the comparison. You’ll be stretching your imagination as well!
Imitate. One of the best ways to learn how to do something is to imitate someone who does it well. There are so many great writers out there to imitate and emulate. Get some poems you like then write your own version. Read a short story and write your own version. Replace the details in your model with details that you are familiar with. Remember, however, that imitation is not copying someone’s work, changing a couple of words or names here and there, and passing it off as your own. That’s plagiarism and you don’t want to get caught doing that. One of my favourite imitation exercises is getting the witches’ brew rhyme from Shakespeare’s Macbeth then letting students think of someone they would like to create a potion for, whether a love potion or a curse, then write it. Try it. It’s fun.
Read. Everyday, whenever you have a bit of time, read. Not just anything, although that is good for a different reason, but the kind of writing that you want to do. If you want to be a journalist, read newspapers and magazines. If you want to be a novelist, read novels. If you want to be a poet, read poetry. Not just a little, but a lot. Get to know different styles of writing. Read works by great writers that you can model your writing after. Yes, I believe a lot of what you learn as a writer can happen by osmosis–in this case, just reading a lot of excellent writing–because you remember a bit of what you read (if your memory is better, you’ll remember a lot!), and what you remember will seep into your writing. But don’t just read excellent writing. Read the really bad writing too, and those in between. If you can distinguish the bad writing from the good writing, you’ll be able to apply that to your writing. You will know when your writing is good and when it is bad. You will learn how to avoid the bad writing and write better. I’m willing to bet that no good writer ever became good at writing without having reading a lot. What are you waiting for? Go get something to read!
Write about something you don’t know. Admit it. You don’t know everything. Nobody knows everything! There will always be something out there that’s new to you. If it’s totally new to you, it’s also probably totally new to a lot of other people. You could be filling up a niche. Who knows? It’s a great challenge to see how much you can write about something you don’t know. How do you go about it? Simple. Research.