Whose Writing Advice Should You Follow?

There’s a lot of writing advice out there.

Some writing experts say, “Write what you know.” Others say, “Make it up as you go.” Some say, “Write by the seat of your pants.” Other say, “No! Start with an outline.”

With so much contradictory writing advice floating around out there, what’s a writer to do?  Read More

Can the Right Writing Tools Help You Write Better?

writing tools

Do your writing tools help you write better?

When I first started writing, it was just me, a ninety-nine cent pen, and a cheap spiral-bound notebook. Using those tools, I wrote dozens of poems, stories, and journal entries.

These days, I’m surrounded by far more sophisticated writing tools: fancy pens and journals, a computer with writing software, a library of writing resources, and the Internet.

My writing has come a long way since I was a thirteen-year-old curled up on the floor with a pen, a notebook, and my imagination. Certainly, experience and studying did a lot to help me write better, but did these newfangled tools also improve my writing?

Yes and no.

I think a few writing tools do help us write better, but for the most part, tools make writing easier or more comfortable. They don’t improve our writing, but they do improve our writing process. Read More

Critiques Make Your Writing Better, So Grin and Bear Them


Critiques make your writing better.

Today I’d like to share an excerpt from my book 10 Core Practices for Better Writing.

This excerpt is from “Chapter Seven: Feedback,” which offers tips for giving and receiving critiques as well as coping with public criticism. The excerpt I’ve chosen to share today explains how to use critiques to make your writing better, and it also touches on dealing with difficult critiques.

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” – Winston Churchill

There are two schools of thought about whether critiques of your work are beneficial. Read More

How to Develop a Beneficial Writing Process

writing process

Find out how a writing process makes your writing better.

Today I’d like to share a few excerpts from my book 10 Core Practices for Better Writing.

These excerpts are from “Chapter Six: Process,” which examines methods, strategies, and other approaches to developing and fine-tuning a writing process that works for you. Read More

How to Improve Your Writing Skills

writing skills

How to improve your writing skills.

Today’s post features excerpts from 10 Core Practices for Better Writing. These excerpts are from “Chapter Five: Skills.” Enjoy!

Writing Skills

When we talk about writing skills, we usually think of the basics: the ability to write sentences and paragraphs correctly with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But a lot more than that goes into writing well.

Ambitious writers strive to consistently produce better writing. We study the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and we work at expanding our vocabularies. We memorize literary devices and storytelling techniques. We develop a distinct voice.

There’s a lot to learn, but over time, we learn to write prose and verse that captivates readers.

From learning how to comprehensively use tools, like writing software, to mastering concepts that are specific to form and genre, a professional writer needs to build skills that go far beyond the basics. Read More

Eight Characteristics of Good Writing

good writing

What’s the difference between bad and good writing?

How important is it for a writer to be able to discern the difference between good writing and bad writing?

Pretty important, if you ask me.

I know some writers aren’t concerned with quality. In today’s do-it-yourself and get-it-done-fast world, quality plays second fiddle to quantity. Who cares if your books are full of typos, bad grammar, and poor logic as long as you have published lots and made a bunch of money?

Readers care. Agents, publishers, and reviewers also care. And while you can still make a million with a bunch of badly written books and a stellar marketing scheme, your work won’t be taken seriously. Also (and this is critical), while it’s possible to make it big by writing badly, it’s not likely. It happens, but it doesn’t happen often. The better your writing, the better your chances for securing a readership and building a career. Read More

What Are Beta Readers, and Should You Use Them?

beta readers

Should you use beta readers?

By the time you’ve finished your manuscript and are ready to show it to agents and editors — or self-publish and put it in front of readers — you have almost certainly lost the ability to view your own work with a critical eye. While there are some tactics you can use to self-edit, you are probably too close to your manuscript to examine it objectively and see all of its weaknesses and flaws. And if you can’t see the weaknesses and flaws, you can’t fix them.

That’s where beta readers come in.

Beta readers are a group of people who read a draft of your manuscript and provide critical feedback that is intended to help you improve your work before you present it to readers, agents, or editors. Beta readers can help with a number of problems that might exist in your manuscript. Read More

Breaking the Rules: When Good Grammar Goes Bad

good grammar

Do you break the rules of good grammar?

Today’s post is an excerpt from 10 Core Practices for Better Writing. Enjoy!

“And all dared to brave unknown terrors, to do mighty deeds, to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before—and thus was the Empire forged.”
— Douglas Adams

Everyone knows the old saying: rules were made to be broken. But some people love rules, live by them, and wouldn’t dream of breaking them. For these folks, good grammar means strict adherence to every rule, no matter how archaic or minute.

That’s too bad.

Don’t get me wrong. Rules are good. They keep us organized, consistent, and civilized. If there were no rules, we’d all be living in a perpetual state of anarchy. Read More

21 Do-It-Yourself Editing Tips

proofreading and editing

Tips for Editing Your Own Work.

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. Proofreading and editing services can get expensive, and friends and family probably don’t want to spend all their free time checking your work. Sometimes the only option available is to do it yourself. Read More

How to Make Grammar Part of Your Daily Life

good grammar

Make good grammar part of your lifestyle.

I recently started relearning how to play the guitar after a rather long hiatus. It’s not like I ever learned how to play it properly in the first place — so I’m still a beginner. And at times, I find it frustrating. I just want to pick the thing up and rip out a song, but I’m constantly tripping over my own fingers, and let’s not even talk about the pain that comes from pressing your fingertips against thick metal strings, repeatedly and for extended periods of time.

Writing’s not so different from playing the guitar. Sometimes we get hung up on the technicalities of the language, and the creative flow is hindered. It’s not easy to rip out a short story when you’re worrying about whether you can end a sentence with a preposition or whether your terminal punctuation marks go inside or outside of the quotation marks. These kinds of setbacks can be painful.

Learning the rules is a drag when you want to fly, but to master any craft, it’s essential to build a solid foundation. Learn the basics; memorize and practice them until they become second nature, and then you can really take off. Read More