1. Observe

Before you write anything, take note of the world around you. No matter what kind of writing you plan to do, paying attention to the wonderful little details will take your descriptions to the next level. Your senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch create a portal for your reader, transporting the words on the page into the readers imagination. It's all about making the reader believe you, and specifics help you do just that.

2. Determine what you want to do

What's going on the page? The first thing to ask yourself is what's your goal: to inform readers of something factual or to express your creative side? Nonfiction, of course, is fact-based and usually the kind of writing you do for homework. Lab reports, speeches, biographical essays, and books reviews are all types of nonfiction. On the other hand, fiction tends to be the more creative kind of writing. With fiction writing, you can weave fantastic tales that exist purely from your imagination. Categories within fiction include fables, mysteries, and fantasies.

One of the biggest differences between nonfiction and fiction is style. Nonfiction tends to follow a specific structure. You must support your ideas, use clear, concise sentences, and come to a conclusion. Fiction also has structure, though there's more freedom with what you can do. But repeat after me: nonfiction doesn't have to be boring and fiction doesn't have to be an out-of-this-world story. You can use your observation skills to describe a person you've seen prictures off for a biography or bring the pages of a story to life with a book review. Similarly, fiction can be realistic if you focus in on the ordinary stuff going on around you. With the right details, you can create a character right out of thin air. All you need is your imagination.

The important thing to do once you pick what you're going to write is to keep an appropriate tone for the genre. Browse through tips specific to the kind of writing you want to do:

3. Talk!

When you write, you're speaking to the reader. So make sure he can understand exactly what you're saying! Think over the words you use to build each sentence. Do they flow? When you read what you've written aloud, is it choppy and awkward? If it makes your tongue trip, try making it two sentences instead of one. Are you stumbling over a large word that you used to impress your teacher? Try substituting smaller, more pronounceable words for the ones you don't really know. Do your ideas connect from paragraph to paragraph? Be sure they make it into the paper in a clear and logical way.

Speaking the words aloud is a practice often used in creative writing. For example, it's taught that poetry should be heard rather than read silently. If your inner poet is itching to come out, one of the best ways to capture the beauty of your words is to speak them. With longer stories, you may not be able to speak all of it without getting a sore throat, but talk through the dialogue scenes. Do your characters sound authentic? Would they actually say the words you've written for them?

4. Write

Here's a secret: the best way to become a writer is to write, so practice every chance you get. Go to a place where you can concentrate and let the words flow. Start writing and don't pick up the pen from the page for at least five minutes. Write in your journal every night. Little exercises like this are the best way to get ideas from your brain out into the open. Never miss an opportunity to polish your writing through revision and peer editing. The most famous authors in the world have editors because they want their writing to be the best it can be. Remember, practice makes perfect. Don't be afraid to write, make mistakes, and then fix them.