- Books, Literature, and Writing
Twenty Writing Tips To Improve Your Writing
WE ALL NEED HELP FROM TIME TO TIME
I have said often that writing is a lonely business. As writers we spend countless hours sequestered in our writing studios pounding out words, separated from the world, roaming about in our own heads. It is easy to get so wrapped up in our writing that we forget some very basic principles about our craft.
With that in mind, I thought I would compile some simple tips that might help you during those long writing hours. As always, use what you need and leave the rest for the next person who comes along. I am sure that you already do many of these things. Some may not apply to you and that is fine. I just toss these out, like noodles, and if any of them stick to the wall then my work is done.
WRITE WITH PASSION
I can’t imagine writing if there is no passion. Writing is an Art, an expression of thoughts and a mirror of life itself. With our words we have the ability to either alter reality or clarify it, but either way we should be excited about it. Otherwise it is just so much scribbling.
WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW
Why do research when you are a fountain of knowledge? We all have expertise in something, whether it be parenting or knitting, motion pictures or teaching. This falls under the category of not reinventing the wheel. Tap into that encyclopedia that rests inside your brain and use your life’s experiences to fuel your next piece of writing.
ELIMINATE UNNECESSARY WORDS
Good writers are minimalists. They use just the right combination of words to get their point across and then they stop. If you have chosen your words properly then there is no reason to beat your audience over the head with words that are merely window-dressing.
SIMPLE IS SOMETIMES BETTER
I have seen writers who are so enamored with the English language that their main point gets lost in that language. When I think of James Patterson I think of a writer who has shaved his writing style down to the foundation. He writes what needs to be written in a very simple, straightforward manner, and it is quite effective. Sometimes dazzle is better left for the 4th of July and Vegas floorshows.
PAINT A PICTURE
A writer is a painter who uses words instead of paint. Through your words a scene must be constructed. The reader should be able to gain a vision of that scene by reading what you have written. If that scene is blurred you have not done your job as a writer.
LEARN FROM CRITICISM
Nobody likes criticism but most people can learn from it if willing. I keep a file of every rejection slip I have received, and I refer to it often. I re-read negative comments several times and try to learn from them. It is not something I enjoy but it does pay benefits. A writer must have a thick skin but they must also be eager to learn.
There was only one Hemingway so quit trying to write like him. There was only one Steinbeck and there is only one James Lee Burke. Keeping that in mind, there is also only one you, and that is an asset you must capitalize on. Be yourself and develop your own style.
FIND YOUR OWN NICHE
Everyone wants to follow the crowd. We are, by nature, a herd species. As writers, we are constantly trying to follow the latest trends. Instead, try to establish a new trend. Try to find a niche that has not been beaten to death by a million other writers. To borrow from StarTrek, boldly go where no man has gone before.
DON’T EDIT THE FIRST DRAFT
Let your writing flow on the first draft. Allow your subconscious to take you on a test drive. Check out the handling, see how she responds to the tight curves and push the pedal to the metal on the open road. Once you have the first draft done then you can go back and edit and spell-check. In other words, don’t disrupt the creative flow by worrying about proper grammar on that first draft.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
Who is going to believe in you other than your spouse and children? You are the one who has to sit there hour after hour, day after day, week after week, pounding out words with no positive feedback. You are the one who will have to face rejection and hammer back the self-doubts. If you don’t believe in yourself then it might be time to take up a safe hobby like crochet.
READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD
You will be amazed at the mistakes you catch by simply reading your work out loud. I’m not sure why this works but it does. Read it like you have an audience. You will be surprised what you discover.
Writing is a craft and as such it needs to be done on a daily basis. One does not perfect a craft simply by willing perfection. The craft guilds of old had different levels to designate the proficiency in that craft, from novice to apprentice to journeyman to expert. The only way to move up to the next level is by writing daily.
CARRY A NOTEBOOK AND A CAMERA
This is something I learned years ago. I always have a notebook in which I jot down ideas, and I always have a camera to capture unique scenes that I might want to recreate in my writing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust my memory. I am more than willing to use these tools to help me along my journey.
DON’T FALL IN LOVE WITH ADJECTIVES
I might add that you should not fall in love with adverbs either; some famous writer once said that adverbs were the crutch of an inexperienced writer, and the same can be said for adjectives. The majestic tree brightly shimmered in the sunlight…..what the hell does that mean?
LEARN FROM THE MASTERS
Speaking of famous writers, they are famous for a reason and that reason is because they are damn good. You can learn a great deal by reading the masters. Every single time I read Steinbeck or Harper Lee, I marvel at their sentence structure and the way they force me to feel.
TO BE A GOOD WRITER, FIRST BE A GOOD READER
Back in my teaching days I would always tell parents during conferences that the greatest gift they can give their children, other than love, is a love of reading. People become good writers because they were or are good readers. We learn the language from reading, so it follows that the more we read the more we will learn.
GRAMMAR IS KING (AND QUEEN) OF GOOD WRITING
I consider myself a reading snob. If I come across poor grammar I will quit reading. It is as simple as that. I refuse to waste my time reading drivel. Your job as a writer is to entertain and educate. Your job is not to make your readers sick to their stomachs. Learn proper grammar or again, take up crochet.
GET RID OF EXCUSES
I don’t have enough time. I don’t get enough comments. I don’t have enough followers. I was dropped on my head as a child. Nobody loves me. WHATEVER! Toss the excuses in the garbage and start writing. That is what writers do, so quit finding reasons why you can’t and grab hold of the one reason why you can…..you are a writer!
TURN OFF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
I happen to believe that most writers are insecure. I think most writers are fragile and I think most writers have an ego that is easily shattered. The voice of self-doubt echoes in our brains as we struggle from day to day in relative anonymity.
Positive in/positive out…..PIPO! That should be the credo of every writer in the world. I am positive that I will succeed. I am positive that I will be read by millions and I am positive that my message will be embraced. Armed with that mindset and a willingness to move forward, how can you fail?
When are you going to write today? How about tomorrow? I can tell you without hesitation that I will be at my computer writing from seven a.m. to four p.m. every day this week. I have to do that because there are too many distractions that can derail me if I don’t do it. Life has a way of obstructing my writing unless I develop discipline.
Did any of these tips help you?
Some thoughts on Writing
NOW GO FORTH AND WRITE
I hope some of these helped you. I will give you one more tip as an added bonus, and it is one that carries a lifetime guarantee. If I can be of any help to you then feel free to ask. I believe we can all help each other if we are willing to spread the wealth of knowledge and talent that we possess. I am willing to help you; all you have to do is reach out and ask for that assistance.
Best of luck to you this week and always. The world needs writers. The world needs painters and poets, sculptors and musicians. We are the ones who provide some beauty in a world that all too often seems bleak to many. Remember that the next time you sit down to write.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)