Your writing skills aren’t going to improve by magic.
There is no supernatural power or mystical incantation that will make you a better writer. If there’s no quick and easy wizardry available, how can you develop your writing skills?
Here is a list of things you can add to your creative routine. With no eye of newt needed, you will create not a magic potion, but instead a solid recipe for improvement.
1. One course per year
You should take writing classes regularly to brush up on general writing skills or to learn more about a particular technique. No matter how long you have been an author, associating with others who share your passion can inspire you. Hearing comments about your work will boost your confidence in your strong points and alert you to opportunities to strengthen your creative voice.
When you critique others, you develop a sense of how certain flaws weaken writing and how certain literary devices enhance it. If you can’t afford to take a course, search the Internet for a free online course or see what is available at your local community college. You might even offer to teach a class. According to the Roman philosopher Seneca, “While we teach, we learn.”
2. Two good beginnings
A title is visible on the spine of a book and on the front cover. If it’s enchanting enough, it will entice people to pick up your book and open to the first pages. As they read the opening lines, they might become hooked by the story.
The title/headline and the first paragraphs of your work are opportunities to induce readers to continue. If a reader loses interest in the first couple of lines, it doesn’t matter how expertly written the rest of your work is. So, spend as much time as necessary to craft an attention-grabbing title and introduction.
3. Three books
Read a minimum of three books a month. For the first one, choose a recently published work in your genre to keep abreast of trends in your field. For the second, select a successful, engaging book and try to pinpoint why it works so well. The third book should be for pleasure.
How will all this reading affect your writing? Many writers claim that it provides inspiration, new knowledge, vocabulary skills and a firsthand look at how other masters of the craft operate. Science has revealed that reading reduces stress and exercises your brain.
4. Four revisions
Revise your work at least four times. As you write your first draft, keep an eye out for errors. After you’ve completed the first draft, use a proofreading tool to identify potential problems quickly. Start the third revision after a “cooling off” period.
A break will allow your brain to reboot so you can look at your work with a fresh eye. Ask an outside party to provide objective feedback for the fourth revision. Think of it as adjusting the spice of a recipe. After four revisions, your work will be seasoned to taste, and your readers will appreciate the refinement.
5. Five senses
Many writers focus almost exclusively on what characters see and hear. What about the other senses? Describing the perceptions of the primary five—sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell—will create a dynamic environment for the reader.
6. Six errors to eliminate
By examining past work and asking for feedback, you should be able to compile a list of six bad traits to address. Research ways to combat each weakness and apply the tips you learn. Within a short period, you will be able to express yourself more clearly.
7. Seven new words
Learn a new word each day. There’s no need to add every new term to your working vocabulary. Just being exposed to new ideas will broaden your perspective and help you express yourself better.
You don’t need a giant cauldron and a magic wand. Writing better is within your reach without sorcery. Try adding just one of the above suggestions to your writing routine. If you see improvement, it will motivate you to try the other tips.
Abracadabra! A better writer will appear as if by magic.
A version of this article originally appeared on Grammarly.