The first time someone told me, “show, don’t tell,” I had no idea what they were talking about. Show what? Isn’t writing, by its very nature, telling?
I was a young writer and didn’t yet understand the many elements of good writing. But I kept hearing that advice over and over: show, don’t tell.
Then, one day, it clicked. I got it. To tell was to write a synopsis. To show was to write a scene, to take readers through the events with action, dialogue, and detail. Show, don’t tell. Of course. It was so obvious.
Now every time I read that advice, I have to smile. Read More
William Wordsworth expresses a simple concept that can be difficult to execute: being yourself. Read More
Doesn’t it seem like the best writing ideas come at the most inconvenient times?
It happens when you’re driving, in the shower, or eating dinner at a restaurant. Unfortunately, you’re not sitting in front of your computer and even if you were, you don’t always have time to stop what you’re doing to make notes about your latest writing ideas.
But nobody wants to lose a truly great writing idea – so how do we save them before we forget them?
If your idea light bulb likes to shine while your hands are tied or when you’re away from your usual writing tools, then I have some tips to help you make sure you don’t lose your most creative writing ideas. Read More
I love collecting writing tips. You never know when you’re going to stumble across a golden nugget of wisdom that will make your writing richer and more vibrant. One of the reasons I started this website was so that I could share the many valuable tips that I’ve acquired over the years. I figure that if some bit of advice helped my writing, it’ll probably help other people’s as well. Read More
You might call your journal a notebook or diary. It’s the handy place where you store your thoughts, ideas, experiences, and your work, either on paper or in an electronic file.
A journal is an ongoing log, usually with dated entries. Some journals are topical (dream journals, travel journals, freewriting journals), while others are left open to explore just about anything. Read More
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. As long as you carry a notebook and a pen, you’ll never forget a brilliant idea.
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? 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 the 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 helps us focus, clears our minds, and promotes relaxation while minimizing stress. 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!
Writers are human, and sometimes we make mistakes. You’re probably aware of the most common mistakes in writing: comma splices, run-on sentences, mixing up homophones, and a variety of other broken grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules.
In my editing and coaching work, I’ve noticed another common mistake: redundancy. Sometimes, we use repetition effectively, but most of the time, by saying the same thing twice, we’re littering our writing with unnecessary verbiage. If we remove the excess, we can improve our writing by making it more concise.
Understanding and Identifying Redundancies
Dictionary.com defines redundancy as a noun meaning “superfluous repetition or overlapping, especially of words.” Its cousin, the adjective redundant, means “characterized by verbosity or unnecessary repetition in expressing ideas” or “exceeding what is usual or natural.”
Sometimes we clutter our writing without realizing it. We do this to fulfill word counts, to give our prose rhythm and meter, or to be descriptive. Sometimes we do it because we’re using writing as a tool to discover our thoughts and ideas.
There’s nothing wrong with cluttered writing as long as we unclutter it before putting it in front of readers.
One of the easiest ways to identify redundant language is to ask whether we can remove it without losing meaning. Here is an example:
The lecture was boring and dull. It was putting Olivia to sleep.
The words “boring” and “dull” mean the same thing. We are told a third time that the lecture was a drag because it lulled Olivia to sleep. We can remove most of the first sentence without losing any details or changing its meaning:
The lecture was putting Olivia to sleep.
Redundancies can also be identified through repetition. However, repetition means using the same word or phrase more than once whereas redundancy means saying the same thing more than once. It’s a subtle but significant difference. Also, repetition and redundancy can occur together:
Charlie smiled as he approached the cheese platter. He chose brie and Gouda from the cheese platter and wished they were serving baguettes instead of crackers.
We see Charlie approaching the cheese platter. When he selects brie and Gouda, it’s implied that he selected them from the cheese platter (because we just saw him approaching it), so it’s unnecessary for the narrative to say that he chose them “from the cheese platter.” The narrative is redundant because it’s not necessary to mention the cheese platter twice:
Charlie smiled as he approached the hors d’ouvres table. He chose brie and Gouda from the cheese platter and wished they were serving baguettes instead of crackers.
Some redundancies are difficult to spot, especially in cases where the exact same word or phrase isn’t used:
Donna realized she was hungry. “I haven’t eaten since breakfast,” she said. “Want to grab a pizza?”
When Donna says she hasn’t eaten since breakfast and suggests grabbing a pizza, the reader will conclude that she’s hungry, so the narrative doesn’t need to tell the reader that Donna is hungry in the previous sentence. When information is revealed through dialogue, it doesn’t need to be stated in the narrative as well:
“I haven’t eaten since breakfast,” Donna said. “Want to grab a pizza?”
As you can see, it’s pretty clear that Donna is hungry without the narrative explicitly saying so.
In addition to broad redundancies, there are a host of redundant phrases that pop up in writing. For example, it’s redundant to say “let’s collaborate together” because collaboration is, by definition, done together. Here’s a list of 50 redundant phrases to avoid in writing. Read through the list and see if you can find a few phrases you didn’t realize were redundant.
Eliminating Redundancies to Improve Your Writing
Try this for practice: choose a recently finished piece and review it, looking for redundancies. Highlight them, then make another copy of the piece, editing the redundancies out. If you catch an average of one redundancy per page (or more), then plan on dedicating one proofreading pass to eliminate redundancies as one of your editing and proofreading steps. After a few passes, you’ll start to catch redundancies in the drafting phase, and eventually you’ll break the habit and improve your writing.
Are redundancies one of your bad writing habits? Have you ever caught a glaring redundancy in a piece of your writing? Do you think you might have missed a few redundancies?
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. Read More
Productivity. It’s all been said and done. In fact, you could spend more time learning how to be productive than actually being productive.
For us creative types, productivity can be a fleeting thing. We experience highs (a whole month packed with inspiration) and lows (three more months fraught with the ever-annoying writer’s block).
It can be frustrating. But creative writing doesn’t have to be a fair-weather hobby. Many successful authors have harnessed creativity, reined it in, and turned it into a full-time profession. So we know it can be done.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Succeeding in the arts takes a tremendous amount of drive, ambition, and dedication. It’s not the kind of job you have to show up for every day or risk being fired. Nobody cares if you get your work done except you.
Creative Writing Tips for More Output
Here are seven creative writing tips to help you be more creative more often. Try them all and see which ones work for you.
1. Show up for work: Set a time every day, show up, and get your creative writing done. It could be an hour a day (two hours on weekends!) or fifteen minutes. It can be first thing in the morning or right after dinner. The point is to make a schedule and stick with it. This will not only lead to more output, it will also lead to better writing.
2. Give yourself a quota: Can you produce twenty pages a week? Ten? Five? Some of us work better when we count words rather than minutes. If that sounds like you, then forget about time allotments. Show up for work every day, but focus on your output rather than on your time card.
3. Reward yourself: If you manage to show up every day or fulfill your quota, then by all means, give yourself a pat on the back. Whether it’s a trip to the masseuse or a book you’ve been dying to read, reward your own positive behavior with special treats that keep you motivated week after week.
4. Punish yourself: I’m not a big fan of negative reinforcement. It might curb bad behavior, but it does so for all the wrong reasons. Keep punishments light. Didn’t meet your goals? I don’t think you should cancel your vacation, but maybe you can skip dessert. Or choose a punishment that promotes your goals. Read a textbook about creative writing or peruse a few articles on good grammar.
5. Hold yourself accountable: If you’re having a hard time meeting your creative writing goals, then set up an accountability system. Take a creative writing class or workshop, join a writing group, hire a writing coach, or partner with a fellow writer and establish weekly check-ins. For some reason, when someone else is holding us accountable, we perform better.
6. Use productivity tools: There are unlimited tools at your disposal to help you stay productive, and all of them can be used with your creative writing projects. Put deadlines on your calendar. Hang a whiteboard and track your progress. Keep a journal of your writing sessions. Recording your goals and accomplishments can be extremely motivating.
7. Stay passionate: Do things that keep your creative writing passions burning. Listen to music that inspires you to write. Watch movies and read books that tell stories that motivate you to tell a story of your own. Dance, sing, and make sure you’ve always got your notebook or journal with you, because you never know when your next great (or unusual) writing ideas will strike.
It’s All on You
Creative writing doesn’t just happen. You make it happen. Born without drive? Foster determination. Uninspired? Learn some new creativity techniques. Can’t think of anything interesting to write about? Write about your life, your friends and family, your problems, your best moments and your worst. Get a book of creative writing exercises and get busy. And remember, only you can prevent your dreams from coming true.
Do you have any special techniques you use to keep your creative writing projects alive? Add your tips by leaving a comment.