Achieve Better Writing with These Essential Writing Resources
If you want to improve your writing, you’re going to have to work at it, because let’s face it, nobody gets by on sheer talent. You’re going to need to acquire better writing habits and solid writing skills.
The best way to consistently improve your writing is through daily writing. When writing becomes part of the natural rhythm of your life, your work will improve in leaps and bounds.
Some actions you take to make your writing better may not involve writing at all. For example, you should become an avid reader so you can absorb language, turns of phrase, imagery, and story elements that were crafted by skilled and successful writers who have gone before you.
Another non-writing activity that leads to better writing is collecting and employing plenty of useful writing resources.
Where would we writers be without our resources? Fat, hardbound reference books and web-based databases packed to the hilt with facts and information are both bane and boon for us. Love them or hate them, one thing is certain — if you’re a writer, you need them.
There are some resources that we all use — the dictionary, for example. What writer doesn’t have that bible of the language sitting within reach on a nearby bookshelf or conveniently bookmarked in a web browser?
If you’ve ever caught yourself using a word only to realize you’re not sure whether or you’re using it correctly, you know what a lifesaver the dictionary can be. In a situation like that, you have three choices – use another word, look up the word to verify its meaning, or take your chances and pray for the best.
Every time you open the dictionary, you’re adding something to your vocabulary. You might be learning a brand new word, verifying what you thought you knew, or simply gaining greater understanding of a word’s meaning. You’ll also build your vocabulary by making good use of the dictionary’s close cousin – the thesaurus.
When you’re proofreading and realize that you’ve repeated one word three times in a single paragraph, there’s no need to break your brain trying to come up with synonyms. Just take a peek inside any thesaurus to find alternatives that will keep your writing fresh.
Writing resources like dictionaries and thesauri help speed up the writing process, and using them will expand your vocabulary.
The result? Better writing.
3. Style Guides
I’ve sung the praises of style guides more than once on this blog. Style guides exist to help you craft material that is consistent in terms of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
As comprehensive as the English language might be, there are plenty of holes where the rules are unclear or don’t exist at all. Style guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style set forth standards that you can adhere to and also address many grammatical issues and rules.
There are a host of style guides available and you should start collecting them immediately. The style guides you choose will depend on what you write. Chicago is for authors and general usage; I use it in my freelance work and on this blog. There are other guides that are geared specifically toward journalism, academic writing, and many large companies and organizations have their own style guidelines. For more information and a detailed description of style guides, check out this post on style guides.
Better Writing Resources
As you build a collection of writing resources, much credence will be given to books that are packed with facts and information. These writing resources are the foundation and structure of your reference base, and they will all lead to better writing, but what about the fun the stuff, the writing resources that are a delight to peruse and a joy to use?
For example, books filled with prompts, activities, and creative writing exercises will stretch your limitations and give you fresh writing ideas. Lots of novice writers forgo these types of writing resources in favor of writing what they want, but the gains to be made by working through writing exercises and other creative challenges are immense and will surely pave the way toward better writing.
In fact, for those of us who aspire to becoming published poets and fiction writers, these creative writing resources may become the most powerful weapons in our arsenal. Make it a point to start building your own pile of such books.
Writing Resources are a Treat
If you’re truly passionate about writing, then you’ve probably already starting building your own library of writing resources. When you see a book on writing from one of your favorite authors, you snatch it and can’t wait to start reading. In the bookstore, you always check to see what’s new in the section where they stock writing resources, and every time you pull your dictionary off the shelf, your heart does a little leap for joy.
Writing isn’t easy. It takes a lot of self-discipline. Plus, the world of writing is competitive. You can position yourself to put out better writing by educating yourself with a collection of writing resources like those we’ve discussed here, plus plenty of others that deal with specialized fields (technical writing, copywriting, fiction writing, poetry, screenwriting, etc.) and reference books that provide hard facts so your work is well researched and accurate.
Have a little fun with your writing resources, and treat yourself to one or two new ones each month until you have a fully-stocked library of such works, which will contribute to improving your writing. Looking for recommendations? Visit the Writing Forward writing resources page, where you’ll find a list of excellent resources, including written reviews (I’ve personally read and recommend all of them).
Do you have any favorite writing resources? How have they helped you produce better writing? Share your favorites and your experiences by leaving a comment.