(My best tips for writers are in no particular order of importance. I hope you find them helpful.)
1. Read. All the time. And then you read some more. And read everything, all genres. You never know what you can learn. Even if you’re writing thrillers and mysteries, reading, for example, literary fiction or romance will likely give your mysteries and thrillers more nuance, your characters more depth. Thriller and mystery writers tend to be very good at plotting and structure, not necessarily on character development or relationships, both areas in which literary and romance writers tend to excel. Conversely, writers of literary fiction are often not great with plotting, even making their writing lively. Which is why reading thrillers, even fantasy might be great for them.
2. Write as much as you can, even when you don’t feel inspired. Maybe especially when you don’t feel inspired to learn that inspiration almost always comes one, two, three hours after you’ve finally begun writing something. I’m not a big believer in writers’ block. I’ll fully admit that, at times, I’ll just sit in front of my computer and stare at it for hours before I manage to get a few words down. Often, I spend hours surfing the net, researching the most trivial subject forever. I compare myself to celebrities, read tons of news articles (mostly the comment sections). Obsessively check my email. Call up every person I can think of and harass them for a while. Go to the bathroom. Yet, eventually, I do write something, often a lot in an hour. Why do I waste time like this? Because writing is often painful.
3. Always use more than one beta reader and go with the majority opinion whenever you change something in your story/piece. And only change it if you, yourself, agree one hundred percent. If it still feels wrong to you, then it is wrong. Always go with your gut. Also, beta read other people’s writing as much as you can. You learn tons that you can apply to your own writing when you go through someone else’s story/piece. And it’s good to help fellow writers. I have found that, as I’ve aged, read and written more books, I’m now more confident in my own writing. In other words, it’s easier to distinguish when a beta gives me something that truly would improve my writing as opposed to impose their own vision/writing style to my story. A good beta should be like an editor—enhance your story, not rewrite it in their own voice.
4. Take writing classes. Join professional writer’s organizations such as Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Learn every aspect of the craft of writing if you’re serious about becoming a professional writer. Betas can be very helpful—especially when you’ve been writing for a while and have the experience/confidence to distinguish between good and bad betas—but learning from writing professionals is crucial. I’ve taken several over the several years I’ve been writing and every one of them has helped me tremendously in becoming a better writer. At the time I didn’t think so, of course, because I already knew better than everyone else. Not! So I learned the hard way that the less you know, the more arrogant you tend to be.
5. If English is your second language, make sure you master it as well or even better than native English speakers. In almost all cases, you’ll be written off immediately as an amateur if the reader can tell you’re a foreigner. They’re a lot more forgiving when it comes to poor grammar or even plain bad writing. I’m not saying that you should slack in either of those two areas, just pointing out that you’re at a disadvantage if English is your second language. So make sure your really master the English language.
6. Embrace social media and promote yourself tirelessly. No one cares about your work as much as you do. These days, it’s almost impossible to become a writing success without using social media wisely. That being said, remember that you must still produce new writing. Set a daily writing quota either in number of words you produce—I find this to be the most useful—or time you spend writing. EDIT: I no longer believe using social media is important to succeed as a writer. I’m myself not very good at it, and I’m doing okay. But it doesn’t hurt if you like to use social media.
What’s your best writing tip?