Some writing tips are cryptic.
When I first came across writing advice that said “kill your darlings,” I thought it meant that we should kill off our favorite characters. That seemed ridiculous. I mean, there are situations in which a story calls for characters to die, but to make a sweeping rule that we should default to killing off our most beloved characters is pretty extreme.
Almost immediately, I realized it was so ridiculous that it couldn’t possibly be the intent of the statement, and I concluded that “kill your darlings” means that we should be willing and prepared to kill our favorite characters if the story calls for doing so. That’s solid advice, and I agree with it.
It’s all about being true to the story. Read more
Every writer has been there: staring at a blank screen, waiting for the words to arrive. But they don’t. The words just won’t come. They will, soon. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Time’s passing and the words still don’t come. Maybe they never will.
You sit there feeling frustrated and uninspired.
What’s a writer to do? Well for starters, you can use the writing tips below. Fighting writer’s block is easier than it seems. But sitting there staring at the blank page will only build tension and continue to hinder your creativity by reinforcing the blockage that you’re experiencing. The trick to combating writer’s block is to remove yourself from your writing for a short time and get that creative energy flowing again. Fifteen to thirty minutes ought to do it.
Writing Tips for Blocking Writer’s Block
In some ways, these aren’t writing tips at all, because the most important way to fight writer’s block is to move your body, which will bring on relaxation and relieve tension. Or do something that gets your mind completely off whatever you’re working on by mentally diving into something different for a while. Close your notebook and put it away, or stand up and walk away from your computer.
Here are five writing tips for non-writing activities that you can do:
- Exercise. Take your dog for a short walk, or go through some simple stretches or yoga poses. Moving the body gets blood flowing and when blood flows to the brain, you become more productive and more receptive to your inner muse.
- Chores. This is a great time to do the dishes. Fold that load of laundry that’s been sitting on the couch for a couple of days. It’s not spring cleaning, just a little daily maintenance that will get your body moving and your mind focused.
- People. We all have phone calls to make, emails to send, and letters to open. Okay, maybe there aren’t many letters to open, just bills and junk mail. But you can take this time to get in touch with friends and family. You’ll be pleasantly surprised when you hang up the phone or click send and suddenly you know exactly what you want to write. Bonus Tip: get in touch with people who are writers and start sharing writing tips with each other!
- Animals. Take some time to toss around the mouse toy for your cat. How long has it been since you gave your dog a good brushing? Spending quality time with pets has been scientifically proven to have health and relaxation benefits for both you and them, and you’ll find that it does wonders for your writing as well!
- Meditate. Meditation serves many purposes. It puts us in touch with our higher power, our inner being, and does wonders for clearing and cleansing the mind. Even a brief ten or fifteen minute meditation will ease the burden of writer’s block and inspiration will come to you in no time!
Good luck and let me know if any of these writing tips help you ward off writer’s block by leaving a comment!
It’s one of those writing tips that pops up everywhere–on lists of writing advice, in quotes bequeathed to us by the masters of writing, and even from the mouths of our teachers and professors: carry a notebook at all times.
After all, you never know when a great idea will strike. It would be awful to lose an idea just because you couldn’t write it down. And you never know when you’ll find yourself waiting around with nothing to do. As long as you carry a notebook and a pen, you’ll never forget a brilliant idea and you’ll never be bored.
Plus, you’ll be able to work on your writing projects whenever the opportunity arises. You might write the last line of your novel while standing in line at the grocery store!
But let’s be clear, the notebook isn’t actually necessary. Most of us have smart phones and other mobile devices that are in many ways better than pens and paper notebooks.
Let’s examine this much-loved writing tip a little closer. Just how critical is it that we tote notebooks and pens everywhere we go?
Don’t Leave Home Without It
Experience has taught me that keeping a notebook handy, like so many other writing tips, is more of a guideline than a rule. When I go for walks, I don’t bring a notebook but I do carry my iPhone, which is loaded with apps that I can use for writing and taking notes. In fact, I find that my iPhone is a far more versatile writing tool than any paper notebook.
Paper Notebooks and Pens
In my work as a writer, I must have access to notebooks and pens, and lots of them. I keep notebooks in my car, purse, nightstand, and on my desk. There are pens to accompany all of them. When I’m working through an idea, I have to brainstorm, make lists, and draw sketches. And I find that if I jot something down in a notebook or on a piece of scrap paper, I can set it on my desk or pin it to my bulletin board so that I don’t forget to execute that idea. So for me, writing down an idea is not only about keeping a record of the idea but making sure that I don’t forget to use that idea. For example, if I’m reading the news and come across a name that would be perfect for one of my characters, I jot it down on an index card or sticky note and then I add it to my manuscript later that night during my writing session.
On the other hand, paper and pens are not always the best or most reliable way to record thoughts and ideas. I’ve been stuck with a pen that ran out of ink on more than one occasion, and I’ve found that they are of no use whatsoever when I’m hit with inspiration while driving.
Apps and Gadgets
Admittedly, the better technology becomes, the less I use these paper notebooks and journals. On many occasions, I’ve typed notes into my iPhone instead of writing them on paper. In fact, my iPhone contains a host of apps that make writing and note-taking a breeze. Here are a few examples:
- Evernote is one of the greatest apps ever invented. I have it installed on my computer, phone, and iPad. If I’m running errands and get a writing idea, I can make a note in the app and it will automatically sync across all my devices, which means later that night, when I’m working on my project, the note is already on my computer and ready to be copied and pasted into my manuscript.
- I’m a visual person. I may not be much of an artist but I like to collect images that inspire me, especially images I can use to represent my characters. If I’m away from my desk and I see something that I want to use in my writing, I can snap a picture of it with my phone instead of trying to describe it so that I can remember it.
- The voice recorder on my phone has been an enormous convenience. A few years ago, I used voicemail to capture ideas while I was driving. Now, I can just click on the voice recorder. Coupled with voice-to-text software, this practically allows me to write while I’m driving, which is pretty amazing.
Technology has come a long way but I think it’s only scratched the surface in terms of what it can do for writers. Scrivener, my favorite program for writing book-length projects, is working on an app for the iPad, which I think will be a game changer, especially if it syncs across devices. And although tablets make sketching and brainstorming a lot easier than say, a traditional computer, they still haven’t reached the nuance of working with pen and paper (at least not the mainstream tablets and accessories). I’m looking forward to new technology for writers that is surely coming down the pipeline.
Relying on Memory
I want to say a few words about relying on memory because there are many writers who don’t carry notebooks and who don’t rush to make a record of every single idea that they have. Admittedly, a few years ago, I thought those writers were crazy, but lately, I’ve found that are some benefits to forgoing a notebook. Last year, I filled dozens of pages in a notebook with ideas for a novel and I ended up scrapping all of them. I will say that those ideas were the seeds for future ideas that I did use, but in retrospect, I didn’t really need to write it all down. Now, I often work through scenes and ideas in my mind before committing them to the page.
I don’t know if the following story is true or not, but consider it:
Ludovico Buonarrati, Michelangelo’s father. He was a wealthy man. He had no understanding of the divinity in his son, so he beat him. No child of his was going to use his hands for a living. So, Michelangelo learned not to use his hands. Years later a visiting prince came into Michelangelo’s studio and found the master staring at a single 18 foot block of marble. Then he knew that the rumors were true — that Michelangelo had come in everyday for the last four months, stared at the marble, and gone home for his supper. So the prince asked the obvious — what are you doing? And Michelangelo turned around and looked at him, and whispered, “sto lavorando,” (I’m working). Three years later that block of marble was the statue of David. (source)
A Writer’s Work is Never Done
Do you carry a notebook? A smart phone or other device? How do you keep track of all your ideas? Leave a comment!
It’s not easy to find time to write.
Even professional writers get caught up in paperwork and marketing and have to scramble to get the actual work of writing done.
But with careful planning and better time management, we can all learn how to carve out a little more time for writing.
Here are seven writing tips that will help you make or find more time to write, even if you have a packed schedule.
Writing Tips for Better Productivity
Try a few of these tried-and-true writing tips and productivity techniques and see which ones work for you:
- Make it a point to write first thing every morning. Most people feel refreshed after a good night’s rest (and a hot cup of coffee!) so there’s no better time to get creative than in the a.m. If you can get some writing done before you hop in the shower, you’ll already have made a great start for the day!
- Schedule writing sessions. If you have an over-packed, super busy schedule and your life is dictated by the notes on your calendar, then pen-in your writing time! Even if you can only squeeze in twenty minutes per day, you’ll see a dramatic increase in your output!
- Give yourself a break. Squeezing writing time into breaks and lunches at work can help you increase your daily word count. Even a ten-minute writing binge could mean a huge breakthrough in your plot or that perfect bit of dialogue you’ve been looking for. Because some of our best writing ideas come when we’re enmeshed in other activities, mini writing breaks scattered throughout the day can move your project along in small but significant steps.
- You can do it in the car. Don’t use pen and paper here, folks. Many cell phones are equipped with recording capabilities, and there are freestanding recording devices as well as apps for your smart phone or other mobile device. Use driving time to record your thoughts and you can transcribe them later. Bonus writing tip: Don’t have a recording device? Call yourself and leave a voice mail!
- Sacrifice. Sometimes in life we have to make choices. Give up one of your TV shows and use that time for a weekly writing session. Reconsider accepting every single party invitation, and ask yourself if extra-curricular activities like playing on a community softball league are more important than getting your writing done.
- Ask for help. If you have too much on your plate and simply cannot find time to write, try delegating other tasks to friends, co-workers, and family members. This will free up time in your schedule that you can devote to writing.
- Turn off the internet. Need I say more?
Do you have any writing tips or tricks of your own that might help others find more time to write? Please share them in the comments.
Adjectives and adverbs are modifiers. Adjectives modify nouns whereas adverbs modify verbs, other adverbs, adjectives, phrases, and clauses. In fact, an adverb can modify an entire sentence. This gives adverbs a rather large playing field; maybe that explains why they are overused.
For example, car is a noun and red is an adjective. Put them together and you get a red car. The word run is a verb and the word quickly is an adverb. Put them together and you get run quickly.
But run quickly is better stated as sprint.
The examples above demonstrate why adjectives can be useful in writing and why adverbs are usually useless. Too often, adverbs are unnecessary and serve only to clutter a piece of writing.
Why Adverbs Are Weak and How They Weaken Your Writing
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ~ Stephen King
Here’s a list of 3732 adverbs. The vast majority of them end in -ly, and these are among the most useless adverbs although they are often cited as examples. Ask someone how to identify an adverb and they’ll either tell you it modifies a verb or it’s one of those words that ends in -ly. Why are adverbs that end in -ly so awful? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look at an example sentence:
“Why don’t you come over here and sit by me?” she asked flirtatiously.
It’s a horrid sentence. The adverb flirtatiously is practically an insult to readers. It tells them how she asked the question when instead, it should show how she asked:
“Why don’t you come over here and sit by me?” she asked, batting her eyelashes.
It may not be the greatest sentence ever written, but showing the character batting her eyelashes is a lot better than telling readers she asked a question flirtatiously.
Most adverbs either tell us what we already know or use too many words to communicate an image or idea. Let’s look at an adverb that modifies an adjective:
It’s a very warm day.
Once we write that a day is warm, does it being very warm change the day in the reader’s mind? The word very does nothing other than intensify the word that follows it and it does so poorly. Often, the word very and the word it modifies can both be eliminated and replaced with a single word that is more precise:
It’s a hot day.
In this sentence, we don’t need the word very or the word warm. The word hot does the job. It’s clearer and more concise, which is the mark of strong writing.
Writing Tips for Using Adverbs Wisely
“Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.” ~ Mark Twain
I’m always on the lookout for unnecessary words in my own writing. I find that seeking out adverbs is a good way to discover words I can cut to tighten my prose. I may not catch them all but I sure try. Here are some guidelines I apply when dealing with adverbs:
- Don’t be lazy. Choosing the right word is never a waste of time.
- Stay away from adverbs that state the obvious. One does not scream loudly because by definition, screaming is done loudly.
- If a sentence is too short, don’t add a bunch of adverbs (or adjectives) to make it longer.
- Train your eye to catch adverbs when you’re editing and proofreading.
- When you spot an adverb, do your best to rewrite the sentence without it.
- Only use an adverb if it’s necessary and you can’t convey the same meaning without it.
- Avoid vague or non-descriptive adverbs. Ask whether the adverb tells the reader something that you can show through imagery and description.
- Don’t use an adverb as a crutch for a verb (or any other word). Look for a better verb. If necessary, write a better sentence.
- Sometimes, when you eliminate a single adverb, you have to replace it with several words. It took three words (batting her eyelashes) to replace one adverb (flirtatiously) but the sentence became clearer and more vivid.
- Don’t be redundant. One does not stealthily creep because to creep is to move with stealth.
- When you do use adverbs, use them intentionally and with purpose.
- Make it a goal to never use the words very or really.
Are You Overusing Adverbs?
Here’s an exercise you can do to gauge your use of adverbs:
Dig through your writing and find a final draft that has been edited and proofread. Go through and highlight every adverb. Ask a friend to check it and see if you missed any. How many adverbs did you find? How many adverbs were there per 100 words? Per 1000? Remove each adverb and ask whether doing so changes the meaning of the sentence. If it does change the meaning, then rewrite the sentence without an adverb. Now compare the original sentences with the adverbs intact to the new sentences that don’t have any adverbs. Which ones are better?
So, when is it okay to use an adverb? When you absolutely must. Here are some examples of sentences that use adverbs well (the adverbs are italicized):
Congress recently passed a new law.
She entered the room silently.
He drives a dark green sedan.
As you can see, sometimes we need adverbs. We just need to use them sparingly, which is a good rule of thumb for using words in general.
Are you attuned to how you use adverbs in your writing? Have you ever visited an old piece of writing and found it littered with unnecessary words? Do you have any writing tips to help other writers use adverbs wisely (or not at all)? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment and keep writing.
If writers don’t know what’s broken, how can they possibly fix it?
Critiques are essential during a writer’s early development. A good critique will give a writer suggestions for how to build on strengths and minimize weaknesses.
And a good critic will relay this information in a tactful manner.
In essence, a critic’s job is to deliver a judgment, but don’t bring the gavel down too hard! We writers are sensitive creatures, with our self-esteem wrapped up in delicate sentences and fragile paragraphs. Best not to break a writer’s spirit by delivering the death sentence along with the verdict.
Today’s writing tips will help you become a better critic. You’ll learn how to deliver thoughtful critiques that will truly help your writer friends grow into better writers. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it.
Tips for Providing Critiques
- Read the piece in its entirety before making any comments or taking any notes. Once you’ve gotten the initial reading out of your system, you’ll be prepared to revisit it with a critical eye.
- Work your way through the piece carefully, taking notes about what’s good and what’s not so good.
- Never work through a critique on the spot. You should be nowhere near your writer friend when you’re reading or evaluating a piece.
- Mark up the copy with underlines and highlighting. Don’t forget to highlight the strong sections – appealing images, effective dialogue, and descriptive scenes. And don’t forget to pay attention to grammar.
- Look for areas where the writing is consistently successful. Are all the characters realistic? Is the grammar tight? These are the writer’s overall strengths.
- Also look for spots where the writer seems to have gotten lucky. Maybe most of the images are clichés, but there’s one really strong, original piece of imagery. Call this out, so the writer can build on it.
- You have to look for weak spots too. Are there lots of great descriptions with just one scene that doesn’t quite make sense? Point it out so it can be fixed.
- Likewise, look for consistencies in weaknesses. This is most essential since consistent problems indicate an area where a writer needs the most improvement. Is the punctuation all wrong? Does the plot go nowhere? Take note!
- Once you’ve established the good, the bad, and the ugly, it’s time to prepare your critique. Organize your thoughts and your notes.
- If you are going to give a live critique (in person), make sure you’ve listed all the points you want to make so you don’t forget anything. Go the extra mile, and give the writer a copy of your notes.
- If you’re providing written critiques, make sure your feedback is clear and consistent. Provide a copy of the writer’s original material with your comments and markup, and also provide a separate document containing detailed feedback.
- Always start with what’s good. First tell the writer what works, where the strengths are. Kick off the session on a positive note.
- Ease gently into the negative feedback. It’s necessary, but you don’t have to slap a writer across the face with it.
- Use positive (rather than negative) language to express areas that need work. Try phrases like the following: this would be even more interesting if… that character would be more realistic if… I like the image you’ve created, but it would be even stronger if…
- Avoid using negative words like: don’t, never, terrible, weak, boring, doesn’t, etc. Instead use positive, action-oriented words.
- In other words, instead of telling the writer what’s wrong with the piece, tell the writer what actions they can take to make it better.
- If you’re working with a new writer, hold yourself back. Focus on problems that are consistent throughout the piece and only call out a few issues. You don’t have to address every single detail – the idea is to show a writer how to improve bit by bit. Never hand back a manuscript so marked up that it’s solid red.
- As you deliver your feedback, pay attention to the writer’s reaction. Grateful? Annoyed? Shocked? Angry? Upset? Heartbroken? You may not be able to do anything about it, but you can always ask if there was anything offensive about your delivery.
- Know that some writers want nothing more than praise. Some people mistake a critique for a personal insult. Others simply can’t handle that their work is imperfect. If you’re looking for someone to build a partnership with, avoid writers who go on the defensive when you make an objective, thoughtful, and honest observations.
- After you’ve provided your critique, check back with your writer friend to see if your feedback was helpful. Find out which, if any, suggestions were used. Offer to take a look at the revision.
- Stick to your guns. Some writers will try to argue points that you’ve made. Maybe they just wanted praise or maybe they’re emotionally attached to a particular passage. The writer should not defend his or her work or attempt to convince the critic of its merit.
- Even though you’re not budging, let the writer know that your critique is not law. Some feedback is, indeed, subjective. Each writer is free to apply or discard suggestions within a critique.
Have you had any luck with critiques? Any bad luck? Do you have any writing tips or insights on giving critiques to add to this list? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
I’m a pretty organized person. Over the years, I have spent countless hours reorganizing everything from the kitchen cupboards to my clothes-packed closet. Now, I’m turning all that organizing into a set of writing tips that you can use to get organized too.
People look at me strangely whenever I offer to help reorganize their garages, but it’s a process I enjoy. When you organize your stuff and your space, your mind feels calmer and more organized too. You can think more clearly, and that feels good.
I’ve spent a lot of time organizing all my writing projects and have developed a few good methods for keeping things in order.
Basically, all of my writing exists in two formats: print and digital. Years ago, I kept hard copies of everything, and tried many methods from file folders to binders.
As I tried each organizational method, I would figure out what worked well and what didn’t work at all. Now, most of my work is stored digitally, but I do still keep some old hard copies stashed away.
Since I put so much thought into how I organized my own projects, I thoughts I’d share my organizational writing tips so you can learn from all my hard work.
Writing Tips for Organizing Printed Material
After trying many different strategies for organizing hard copies, I realized that binders are the way to go. Why?
- You can purchase thick 3-5″ binders and cram in as much as possible.
- Organizing is easy with tabbed dividers.
- The pages go in and out easily by opening the rings.
- Clear-cover binders can be customized with fancy spine and cover inserts.
- There are a host of binder accessories available, from bags that hold pens and pencils to folders that you can clip in for holding pages that aren’t hole-punched.
Eventually, more and more of what I’d written was in the digital format. The material in my binders became dated and being environmentally conscious, I started opting to do regular electronic backups over the antiquated print method.
Writing Tips for Organizing Electronic Files
I’ve struggled with how to organize my electronic writing folder. For some reason, printed materials are easier to group and label. By using subfolders, I’ve been able to create navigable directories that make it easy to find anything and everything I’ve written.
Here’s what I’ve got so far:
- Notes and Ideas: a collection of notes that I’ve typed from my college days, story ideas, brainstorming sessions, and writing tips I’ve saved.
- Completed Works: ready to be sent out or published.
- In Progress: anything that is not polished, with subfolders:
- Journals and Freewrites: pretty self-explanatory and very password protected.
- Blogs and Internet: copies of my blog posts and related notes.
- Feedback: feedback and critiques that I have given and received.
- Submissions: copies of work that I’ve submitted along with a spreadsheet for tracking submissions.
- Research for Writing Projects: information that I’ve found online and have saved because I think it might come in handy someday for one of my projects. Now that I use Evernote to clip material from the web, this folder has become an archive.
I reorganize this whole mess about once a year. I just went through it a couple of weeks ago and did a little clean-up, and I found that this system works well for keeping files where I can find them quickly and easily.
Tell me, how do you keep your writing files organized? Share your organizational writing tips in the comments!
Have you ever seen the movie Throw Momma From the Train? It’s a classic 80s comedy about the hilarious misadventures of a writing instructor (Billy Crystal) and one of his students (Danny Devito). When the film opens, Billy Crystal’s character is suffering from an extreme case of writer’s block. In fact, he can’t complete the first sentence of his next novel: The night was…
The character’s search for the perfect word to finish the sentence persists throughout the film (as a sub-plot): The night was hot. The night was hot and wet. The night was humid. The night was cold. The night was foggy. The night was dry.
Of course in the real world, we can solve such problems by using a thesaurus, but in the movie, this quest for the perfect word provokes a lot of frustration from the character (and laughs from the audience). He does eventually find the ideal word, but you’ll have to watch the movie to find out what word he ends up with and where he gets it.
The Right Word
Billy Crystal’s search for the perfect word in Throw Momma from the Train is one of my favorite film representations of what it means to be a writer. Finding the right word can breathe life into an otherwise lifeless sentence. When we choose words carefully, our writing is clearer and more meaningful.
Of all the tools and techniques that we writers use, none are as critical as our raw materials, our basic building blocks: words. A riveting story will fall flat on its face if readers can’t make sense of it. A thought-provoking essay will be handily dismissed if the language doesn’t clearly communicate the writer’s ideas and intentions. And poetry, which especially emphasizes word choice, is intolerant of lazy writing and poor word choices.
I believe the two greatest goals in word choice are to be clear and concise. Certainly, there are people who pride themselves on reading a convoluted passage dozens of times in order to understand it. However, if a piece needs to read multiple times for basic comprehension, the writer has grossly failed at her sole responsibility, which is to communicate.
How to Make the Best Possible Word Choices
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and techniques that you can use to make the best possible word choices. Here are some simple writing tips to help make your writing clear and coherent:
- Dictionary: make sure each word means what you need it to mean. If you’re not 100% sure about a word’s meaning, look it up in the dictionary. Watch out for homophones!
- Accuracy: every word should convey your meaning accurately. Precision leads to greater clarity, so use the most precise words available. There’s no such color as dull black. It’s charcoal.
- Connotation: connotation goes hand in hand with accuracy and precision. Be aware of each word’s deeper meaning. For example, when people are cheap, the connotation implies that they are stingy, but people who are economical have smart spending habits.
- Necessity: is every word and every sentence absolutely necessary? In my editing work, it’s not unusual for me to cut 50 or more words from a 1000-word piece. If a word (or phrase) isn’t essential, delete it.
- Aesthetics: sometimes there are several different words that will do the job. Other times, there are a variety of ways you can arrange words or sentences. In cases like these, the decision may come down to musicality. Be considerate of how each word sounds.
- Clarity: clarity is the ultimate goal of communication. If the writing is unclear, communication will be unsuccessful. Make sure your intent is obvious. Don’t be vague and don’t hesitate to rewrite portions of text that lack clarity. Rework it until it makes sense.
- Simplicity: they say less is more, and it’s true. Don’t use a five-syllable word when there’s a perfectly good two-syllable word that will convey the same meaning. Don’t spend paragraphs or pages describing something that could be expressed in a few sentences. Keep it simple!
- Jargon: I love Star Trek but I have no idea what all the techno-babble means. However, it’s necessary to the story, otherwise characters would be saying things like “That thing that makes our starship go is broken.” However, sometimes jargon is used ineffectively and causes confusion for the reader. Use it wisely and with caution (and make sure it’s necessary).
- Loaded language: language is considered loaded when it’s designed to evoke a particular emotional response from the audience through manipulation. It usually involves twisting the truth and is a favorite practice among politicians and pundits. If you have to rely on manipulation to make a point, maybe your point is not worth making.
- Specificity: vague, obscure writing is meaningless. The trick is to strike the right balance between being specific and providing too much detail. For example, you might give a character a star-shaped birthmark below her right ear. That’s specific. However, long fingernails on a middle-aged woman are so common, the detail may be too general and therefore meaningless.
- Be natural: language is most clear when it sounds natural. If the reader has to trip over his tongue to get through a paragraph, your text is in trouble. A great way to make sure the prose is natural is to read it aloud.
- Thesaurus: use a thesaurus to find the best possible word choices for every sentence you write. If a word sounds wrong, feels wrong, or doesn’t have the exact meaning that you intend, find a replacement in the thesaurus. If you can’t find one, then some rewriting may be in order.
Every Word Matters
How much effort do you put into choosing the right words for your writing? Have you ever spent days, weeks, even months, in search of the perfect word? Do you often consult with the thesaurus? Share your word-choice adventures by leaving a comment, and keep writing!
Believe it or not, there are a few writing tips that we writers can steal from athletes, strategies that show us how to stay in shape and on top of our game.
Athletes work hard even when they’re off the field. They spend hours practicing with their teams. They run miles around the track when nobody else is around. They swim the laps, dunk the balls, and sweep their rackets. And they do all this so that when it’s time to play, they’ll steal the show and take home the trophy.
We all went to elementary school, where we learned our ABCs and how to diagram a sentence. In high school, we read the classics and wrote the essays. Now we’ve been let loose on the field. We pen articles, publish blogs, peck away at novels, and compose poetry.
So, how do we stay in shape when we’re not dribbling all over the court?
Writing Tips for Good Fitness
Most writing tips address creativity and productivity – but these tips are all about staying fit. After all, fitness isn’t just for athletes. All professionals need to keep their skills toned and eyes on the ball.
- Work out: As a writer, you need to give your language center a good workout every now and then. Read a book or brush up on the rules of grammar. Challenge yourself with a crossword puzzle or a game of Scrabble.
- Gather your equipment: Find good, solid resources that you can use to stay on top of your game. Find a blog or a book, a podcast or a video series. Look for resources and sources of inspiration that will help you build up your weaknesses and maximize your strengths as a writer.
- Do your exercises: If you want to write but don’t know what to write about, then try some writing exercises or prompts. These are also ideal for building your skills and toning underused muscles. In other words, if you’re a fiction writer, do some poetry exercises. If you’re a poet, try some storytelling prompts.
- Show up for practice: Write every day. If you don’t write as part of your job, then set aside ten to twenty minutes for daily writing practice in your journal — even if you can’t work on your larger projects, you should still write something, anything, every day.
- Game plan: Don’t haphazardly write whenever the fancy strikes you. Think about what you want to write, then develop a game plan — a five- or ten-year strategy to achieve your writing career goals.
- Eyes on the ball: Once you’ve set your goals, revisit them annually, monthly, or better yet, weekly.
- Win the match: Every time you reach a milestone, reward yourself with a trophy. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. Was that your 100th rejection? Treat yourself to an ice cream cone. Did you just land your first byline? Get a massage. Book deal? Take a vacation.
Those of you who have been visiting Writing Forward for a while know that I am a big advocate for working hard and trying to continuously grow as a writer. The sooner you start working your writer’s muscles, the sooner you’ll be in tip-top shape and on top of your game. Why not start now?
Keep on writing!
Do you have any writing tips to share? Leave a comment or send in a guest post!
The human mind is a funny thing; it likes to play tricks on us.
For example, when we proofread and edit our own writing, we tend to read it as we think it should be, which means we misread our own typos and other spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes as well as problems with word choice and sentence structure, context, and overall readability.
If you have a friend or family member who has good grammar skills, maybe they can help you out by proofreading and editing your work before you send it out or publish it.
For special submissions and publications, hiring a professional proofreader or editor is the best way to make sure your writing is free of errors.
But for most of us, it’s not likely that anyone’s going to proofread and edit every single piece of writing that we create. That’s especially true for writers who put out a lot of material — like bloggers, copywriters, and freelancers. Proofreading and editing services can get expensive and friends and family probably don’t want to spend all their evenings checking your work.
Do-It-Yourself Proofreading and Editing Tips
Sometimes, the only option available is to do it yourself. Here are 21 proofreading and editing tips that you can put into practice for polishing your own writing.
- Proofread and edit every single piece of writing before it is seen by another set of eyes. No exceptions. Even if you do hire a professional editor or proofreader, check your work first.
- Understand the difference between proofreading and editing. Edit first by making revisions. When the piece is done, proofread to check for proper grammar.
- Use the “track changes” feature in Microsoft Word when you edit. This feature essentially saves your edits and marks up your document so you can go back and revert to different revisions.
- Step away from a piece of writing before you proofread it. The longer the piece, the longer you should wait to proofread it. Let a novel sit for six weeks. Let a blog post sit overnight.
- Before proofreading and editing, run spelling and grammar check. Then, run it again after you’re done polishing to check for any lingering typos. However, don’t count on software for spelling and grammar. Use it as a fail-safe.
- Read your work aloud. Pronounce each word slowly and clearly as you read and check for mistakes.
- Proofreading should never be a rush job. Do it s l o w l y.
- Don’t review your work once and then send it out into the world. I recommend editing until the piece reads smoothly and proofreading everything three times or more.
- At the very least, proofread until you don’t catch any more errors.
- Read the piece backward so you can see each word separately and out of context.
- Look up the spelling of proper names, scientific, and technical terms that you’re not familiar with to make sure you’re spelling them correctly.
- Don’t make any assumptions. If you’re not sure about something, then look it up so you can fix a mistake (if there is one) and learn the correct way.
- Don’t forget to proofread titles, headlines, and footnotes.
- Pay attention to the mistakes you’ve made in your writing. You’ll find that you tend to make the same ones repeatedly. Keep track of these and work on avoiding them during the initial writing process in the future.
- Choose one of the many style guides and stick with it. This will make your work more consistent, and you’ll have a great resource to use when you have questions about style and formatting.
- Start building a collection of grammar books and writing resources so when you do run into questions (and you will), you have access to reliable and credible answers.
- If you intentionally let grammatical mistakes slip through, do so by choice and make sure you have a good reason. It’s okay to break the rules if you know why you’re breaking them.
- Pay attention to formatting. Use the same formatting on all paragraphs, headings, and other typographical stylings. Learn how to use these features in your word processing software.
- Proofread when you’re fresh and wide awake. Proofreading doesn’t go over well when you’re tired or distracted.
- Proofreading and editing can be tedious so break up your revision sessions by doing other tasks that help you clear your mind: exercise, play with the pets or kids, go for a short walk, or listen to some music. Try to avoid reading or writing during these breaks.
- Make it your business to develop good grammar skills. Read up on grammar or subscribe to a blog that publishes grammar posts (like this one) to stay up to date on proper grammar.
Some people love the proofreading and editing process. Others despise it. If you’re into grammar, the mechanics of writing, and polishing your work, then proofreading and editing will be easier and more enjoyable for you. If not, just look at it as part of your job — something that goes along with being a writer.
And once you’re done proofreading and editing, make sure you get back to your writing.
Got any proofreading and editing tips to share? Leave a comment!