What follows are three lessons I've learned over my years of writing. I've also included specific advice (books to read, etc.). Hope you find it helpful, and enjoy!
1. To Write Well, Read Well
~ Read How to Read a Book, by Mortimer J. Adler. This volume provides excellent keys in grasping the flow of arguments in nonfiction and plot in fiction. For those limited on time, devote half an hour or fifteen minutes every evening to skimming a chapter or so. Be sure to read the table of contents to see which portions would be most helpful to you.
~ Research your desired writing field for bestselling or highly rated books in that genre. As you read these books, take note of techniques the author uses, themes the book espouses, the book’s structure, and other points that come to your attention. Keep a reading journal that sums up your thoughts and impressions on the book and—especially—how it relates to your writing. (You may wish to polish these impressions and post them as book reviews on a blog.)
~ Read good books on writing. This will enable you to learn from others’ mistakes rather than reinventing the wheel. The books On Writing Well (William Zinsser) and The Elements of Style (Strunk & White) may be a good place to begin. Additionally, there are many genre-specific writing books that may help you as you progress further into the realm of serious writing. Portioning out these tomes and reading a little consistently each day, along with recording your observations, will help you to fit this practice into your life. (Again, your observations may be excellent material for blogging.)
2. Write Every Day
~ The “write” that I am referring to is writing works that are roughly in line with your goals of what you want to publish. While it’s very well to keep a journal, simply cataloging the day’s events does nothing to challenge your writing. Further, if you do not write, then you will never finish any writing, and you will certainly never get published.
~ It can be quite helpful to utilize a competition like the annual National Novel Writing Month in November to kick-start your writing routine. However, in the end, it is up to you to find the time in your life to write. Begin the day with writing, and reward yourself with relaxation only after you have written your goal for the day. Most importantly, be consistent. If you promise yourself to write every day, than do it. Your writing will thank you.
3. Get Outside Feedback
~ Those of us who have participated in critique groups or worked under a mentor know that this rule goes without saying. No matter how many times you edit your work, the simple fact that the work is yours precludes you from looking at the piece with purely impartial eyes. For that, you will need partners or mentors who give you strong—even hurtful—critiques.
~ In the end, the final decision of what and how to edit should still remain yours, no matter what critiques you receive. Often, you may find that your readers have contradictory responses and suggestions for the work. In any case, it is up to you to decide what you want to change. Thus, read their suggestions and critiques with an open mind and heart, remembering that the final decision lies with you.
These “rules” aside, there are a thousand and one ways to become a good writer. Read and write yourself and see which areas are most helpful along your journey to excellent writing.