As with any skill, writing has set rules and tools that a writer needs to master in order to write well. Here are eight top tips to help you hone your craft.
Make writing a daily activity.
As with any skill, practice makes perfect. Whether it’s a star sports player, musician, or chef, anyone who wants to be top of their game will put in some serious hours of practice. Join a ‘daily writing challenge’ group. Play with different styles and genres and find your writing style.
Read, read, and read.
Just like a sports player watches a match on TV to analyse a game, you should read as many different categories and styles as possible. If you like a particular writer’s style – break it down to see why you enjoy it. Don’t copy their style, but learn by example. Do they always have a great storyline and keep you hooked until the end? Do they have a way of setting the scene that you can picture just where the characters are? Follow their lead.
Know your shortcomings – and do something about it.
If you know that grammar is letting you down, then invest in a grammar course. If you have all the ideas in your head but struggle to put them to paper, why not participate in one of our intensive story writing courses?
Start by giving yourself feedback – edit, edit and edit again. Read it out loud. Next, get feedback from non-professionals – these are your potential readers. Ask friends and family (the ones who won’t hold back) what they think of your written piece. You’re not asking their professional option, but rather if they enjoy the piece and if it makes sense, or is gripping, informative, or whatever your goal is for them as the reader. Lastly, try to get feedback from a professional. This could be a writer friend or even a writing coach.
Stick to a style guide.
Be consistent with your writing style. This starts with choosing either UK or US spelling and grammar for a particular piece. The publication will determine this; but if you’re writing for yourself, use the one you’re familiar with – but never jump between the two. You can’t have ‘colour’ and ‘customize’ in the same piece of writing. But a style guide goes way beyond the use of UK vs US spelling. Most publications will have their style guide or use a universally accepted one. If in doubt, ask them. Be consistent – don’t use ‘wifi’ at the beginning of an article and ‘Wi-Fi’ at the end. Don’t use single quotation marks in one sentence and double quotation marks in another – unless done on purpose for clarity. If you have no idea where to start with a style guide – stick to a universally accepted one such as the AP style guide.
Avoid clichés like the plague! (See what we did there?)
The quickest way to get ditched from a travel publication is to present an article for submission that mentions a ‘hidden gem’ that you discovered on your travels.
Write in a natural style – as you would speak.
Of course, unless you are writing formal or academic script, it’s best to use contractions, or your writing will sound stuffy and unnatural. Use simple, everyday words.
Use strong nouns and verbs.
Selecting solid nouns and verbs is far more effective than throwing in endless adjectives and adverbs. For example: instead of saying, ‘He ran very fast.’, write, ‘He sprinted’. Or instead of using, ‘the big black dog’, instead mention, ‘the Rottweiler’.
Implement these tips, and you’ll see a vast improvement in your writing.