Have you ever chatted with a person and mentioned publishing some work only to be barraged with requests for writing tips? Although we would long to be full of wisdom, providing that kind of information is not easy. Sometimes it seems easier to provide investment tips during an unstable stock market.
If you want to help people improve their writing skills, you actually have to read their work. Their enthusiastic description of the characters and explanation of the plot will not really help you to determine what they need to do. Unless the character and plot are all still in the person’s head, in which case the best tip to improve writing is to actually write.
When I write about a threat to my family, my writing shines. So, I might say “Reveal your greatest fears to be a good writer.” However, I doubt that is true of everyone. The road to writing excellence depends on the kind of writing a person wants to do, their innate ability, their past experience with writing, and their personality. For some people listening to the advice of professional writers is a good tip. If a prospective writer wants to produce new works that subvert rules and alter expectations, “how to” books on writing may be crushing.
If you want to write complex characters and interesting plots–no books exist that must be read, and no books exist that are guaranteed to teach these skills. I recommend reading books with these kinds of characters and plots and then examining the techniques the authors used. I find that reading great novels is more helpful to me than “how to write” tutorials. However, some writers become overwhelmed with this kind of analysis and want the steps broken down so they are more accessible.
The most superior avenue to become a good writer is to write and do this almost daily. The second avenue is to receive feedback on writing from knowledgeable people. A writer needs to find other writers, amateurs and professionals, to critique their work. They should not expect much praise at first. After doing a stint in a critique group, they can start entering into competitions that provide feedback. But, most of the judges in these contests will not be the same kind of people as those seeking new writers to publish. Those people are already busy dealing with agents or the backlog of selected manuscripts from slush piles.
The only tip that I see that works for almost all writers is to be disciplined enough to spend many hours writing and critical enough of their own work to review and revise it until it is ready for the rest of the world to see. However, don’t keep revising work until it is perfect. Then, the rest of the world will never have a chance to see it.