Beyond The Basics: 5 Ways To Take Your Writing Further

    Do you want to take your writing further?

    It’s important to learn the basics of writing well, but at some point, you need to add nuance to your words and depth to your message.

    Here are five ways to take your writing further.

    1. Go deeper into yourself

    We are complicated people, you and I. We have depths which no one has yet seen. We have demons roaming in our minds and dark things nestling inside our hearts. The aspects we keep hidden can be the fuel for some powerful writing but mostly, we’re too scared to let them out.

    But if you want to take your writing further, you need to mine yourself first. Take your past failures, your fears, your dreams and pour them into your writing. Give of yourself and the words will reward you.

    2. Tackle bigger themes

    The bite-size internet (and indeed, list posts like this!) means we tend to skim the surface of meaning a lot of the time. There is a tendency to rush content out the door without delving as far into it as we could. There isn’t enough time to debate the deep and meaningful topics in this fast-paced world, right?

    But actually, people are crying out for meaning and emotional resonance, and you can give it to them.

    When you’re writing, decide on the deeper levels of meaning you want to illustrate. For example, I write action-adventure thrillers which at one level are about hunting down bad guys and blowing stuff up, but I also explore the question of whether there is a God, science vs. faith and whether miracles happen. Writing on two levels gives us a way to connect more powerfully with people.

    3. Use free-writing

    Free-writing is a short period of time, say 10 minutes, where you write from your own stream of consciousness, or around a specific topic. Don’t censor yourself, because you won’t be sharing the words in this format. Just let your mind and fingers go free.

    Some recommend writing by hand as it accesses different parts of the brain, but I don’t think it matters. The important thing is not to stop writing, even if all you write is ‘this is terrible’ over and over again.

    Set a timer and just write. When the timer goes off you can go through the text and see if there are any ideas in there you can use. Whatever happens, save the writing, because I guarantee that you’ll go back to it later and be surprised.

    4. Copy the greats

    Austin Kleon’s book ‘Steal like an Artist’ contains some fantastic advice, and I particularly liked this quote.

    Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself. ~ Yohji Yamamoto

    Find the books you consider great and copy their style. Yes, actually copy their words out by hand or by typing them. You’re not doing this to plagiarize, you’re doing this to learn.

    In copying, you will see how great writers approach aspects of writing and you will notice things that you wouldn’t if you just read the words. You can also use this as a jumping off point for free-writing, as above. Riff off their words and create your own. Use their style to expand your writing repertoire.

    5. Rest your work for longer

    One of Stephen King’s tips in ‘On Writing’ is to put your manuscript away after you have finished it. Print it out and put it in a drawer until you have forgotten enough of it that you can return to it with fresh eyes. Only then are you emotionally removed enough to be able to edit freely.

    I believe we should do this with any piece of writing that we want should resonate with an audience, be it a guest blog post, or a letter/email to a loved one.

    When you take the writing out again, you can edit but also add layers to the work around the themes you want to illustrate. You can make the work richer and more resonant. You can refine your word choice. This will make the writing stronger and you will have put more of yourself into it.

    So take the challenge and go deeper into your writing craft. You will see the benefits in your own artist’s journey and your readers will thank you for it.

    How do you go deeper into your writing? Please do share in the comments below.


    About the Author:

    Joanna Penn is the Amazon bestselling author of the ARKANE thrillers, Pentecost, Prophecy and Exodus. Her site for writers has been voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers 3 years running and offers articles, audio and video on writing, publishing and book marketing, plus the free Author 2.0 Blueprint.

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    About the author

      Joanna Penn

    • So, in short, you need to effing write, write and write…! (if you want to be a writer that is).

      Whether you do free-writing or copy someone’s work (as in the movie, The Words), you have to keep on writing till your hands bleed and your eyes pop out.

      Nice article, Joanna! – Ron.

    • Excellent info! And so right on… thank you for sharing! Blessings, Krissy

    • Awesome tips on how writers can “level up”.

      Personally, a whole lot of practice (i.e. writing every day) has done wonders for my craft. I also think that going out there to meet new people and have new experiences to write about can also take our writing further.

    • I’m so sorry Mary. Now I see the answer was right here. Just about to start on phones for 4 hours but trying to improve what I learned from ALL the notes from last two years which I pleased to say have been put into operation and worked. I know what you mean now but I took it the wrong way and of course did not read the answers properly. I understand a LOT of what you wrote on the Bootcamp about other things now and they are beginning to happen but I need to write better. Thanks for replying I know you are busy. Still alive and kicking! My cousin had a story today which I will write about in a better fashion. I need a gadget in my brain to get me to correct place but you are BETTER! Thanks again.

    • Andrew says:

      Going deeper to me is about forgetting whether or not someone will accept my writing. If I believe in it then there must be someone out there who has similar thoughts. I use my convictions to write. That’s the strongest thing you can do as a writer. Opinions get us no where.

    • Great reminders, Joanna. Copying from the greats is also a copywriting trick. Thanks for sharing!

    • How do I write more deeply?
      By spending more time with my writing…
      -reading what I’ve written, re-reading it.
      -dwelling on the issues/themes
      -developing a mental picture of the characters–what are they like, inside and out.

      • When I write on my website, I normally say what I’m feeling inside about the subject. I know everyone is not going to agree with my opinions but there are people who think as I do but are afraid to express themselves for fear of what others think. When I write, I write to satisfy myself in hopes of reaching like-minded people. I also blog ( on subjects most people would rather not talk about or pretend it doesn’t happen. And I try to reach in the darkest side of me when I’m blogging.

    • King’s book has changed how I write. Read it straight through, twice, as soon as I bought it.

      I’d forgotten the idea of copying the work I revere. Painters do it all the time, to get inside the masters’ heads. I need to make some time to hand write a copy of “The Big Sleep” and see how it feels.

    • Laura Dobb says:

      Excellent post! I will refer to these words of wisdom when I go to a cottage for a week of writing in March. I disagree with only one point and that is I believe it is integral to write by hand. The brain science behind this idea are easy to reference and writing by hand not only releases creativity, it also helps to trigger memory. I write about this from my experience as a student of Biography Work and as a life-long creative writer. Happy writing!

    • rosemarie1 says:

      This was great! Thanks. My readers seem to respond best to personal observations. beauty. challenges. opportunities. renewal. changing things up. looking at life a new way.

      The resonance is with THEIR experience or their process. Because I write from a Christian POV in a PC world, most readers respond personally via email and FB. (I find that interesting; so much for their angst within a culture that is supposedly accepting of whatever you want to believe.)

    • KD McLean says:

      A year ago, I decided to sit down and write the damn book. I had never done more than a grocery list before, but I had been writing them for over 50 years, so I was ready.

      Very early on in my efforts, I got hold of On Writing from my library. I didn’t read it, I consumed that book. The most important aspect of that book was the voice King used throughout. It was as if I had a big brother, or an uncle saying to me “Okay, you want to do this? Then start here, do this, and try that.” It was just what I needed. So I closed the door and began.

      Today, one book is e-pubed (and yes! I actually sold 10 copies!) and I have two other manuscripts in the works. Now in my journey, my lessons and encouragement come from posts like this and correspondence with people like you. I have so much to learn; and I’m enjoying every lesson.

      Like us. I am so happy being a part of this community. What a great post!

      • KD, I loved that you “consumed” King’s book, that is EXACTLY how I felt about it. I’ve read it numerous times; one of the best things I got out of it was not just that it changed how I wrote, but it changed how I read as well. That shift in my perspective (why am I not loving this book? what is keeping me engaged? what, for me, makes this a page turner?) enriches (I hope) my own writing. That was an extremely valuable gift and forever changed my direction.

      • I also hope to one day just sit down and write the damn book!

    • Jevon says:

      I like the first tip, go deeper into yourself. That is exactly how I get the stories for my books.

      To go deeper into my writing, I also find it helpful to write an emotional scene when you are experiencing that same emotion. Like if someone made me angry today, then I would harness how I feel and pour it out in a scene where my character is angry.

    • Beth Havey says:

      Great tips, Joanna. I especially believe in setting the writing aside and coming back to it.
      That’s harder to do with short pieces, like blog posts that I am timing for publication. But
      whatever I write, I proofread better, see the line of logical thinking better and find new ways
      to say things when I come back to a work after a respite from it. THANKS.

    • Tray Bakes says:

      Thanks Joanna for the advice, I find taking the rest of work helps. It let’s you sort the things out in your head. I find the trickiest part of the whole writing experience is getting past the blank page.

      • I go deeper into my writing by sitting there in deep thought for a short while after reading where I had left off from my previous session then I create better sentences.

    • Some great tips Joanna. I especially love the idea of actually copying and writing out by hand the work of great writers. The idea of ‘studying’ the work of others is one I’ve read often but a little daunting. I really like the idea of learning by doing, rather than by reading!

    • Ola says:

      Thanks for this post. It was spot on.

      I’m reading the On Writing book by Stephen King right now, and I can really, really, recommend it. It has both wise words and a lot of humour.

      I can also recommend to go and check out Joanna Penn’s website.

      Best regards from Sweden

    • AH says:

      I have to admit that what scares me the most when it comes to writing has become feat. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, feat of putting into words the darkness that is sometimes inside myself. So maybe you are write, I should learn to put it out there. So many times ppl visit my blog and say “I’m glad I’m not alone” so maybe that should motivate me to write. Thanks for a great post

      • @ AH I identify with you there! I write mostly about superficial things, for the same reason: fear of rejection!!! And then something like ” casting my pearls to the swine”? You don’t want people reading your stuff, and not sharing theirs?
        So, thanx Joanna for the tips…here’s to delving deeper!

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