TIPS OF WRITING ANYTHING
It’s something you either love or hate. (Or both.)
From scholarship essay writing to Valentine’s Day love poems, it seems no one can escape the written word — even in a society so focused on technology and other digital distractions. No matter where life takes you, you’ll need to know how to piece together a coherent sentence, even if it’s only for a text message to your grandmother.
Hey, Edgar Bulwer-Lytton didn’t say, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” for no good reason.
Now here’s the good news: You can get better at it!
So, whether you’re planning to become the next J. R. R. Tolkien or just want to know how to email your boss without pulling your hair out, these are the ten writing tips you need to know about.
1. Know why you’re writing
Hold on! Don’t skip this point just yet.
Right now, you may be thinking something like: “Of course I know why I’m writing. Why else would I read this dumb blog post?”
But do you really?
Let’s take the example of writing an email to your boss. Perhaps it’s a quick memo to let them know you’re eagerly anticipating their decision regarding your proposed promotion. Easy, right? You may as well copy and paste the second half of that sentence.
Not so fast: There’s much more to it than that. The words, tone, and style you choose can transform a somewhat dull email into an impressive work of writing depending on your purpose. Say your boss has a huge ego and will only consider your proposal through a disgusting amount of flattery. A dry email won’t be effective writing in that case!
Compare these two examples: “Thank you again for speaking with me last Friday. I’m eagerly anticipating your decision regarding my promotion.”
“Thank you again for clearing your busy schedule to speak with me last Friday. I am grateful for the crucial advice you provided me and know you’ll make the best decision regarding my promotion.”
Hopefully, you won’t ever have to kiss-up like this in your life, but can you notice the difference? That’s the power that knowing why you are writing brings.
This principle doesn’t solely apply to business or personal writing: It’s no less important for creative writers. Are you writing a horror novel and need to increase the tension? Try replacing words like “cold” with an unsettling alternative like “chilling,” and so on.
Some other important questions to ask yourself are:
- Who will read this?
- What message am I trying to make clear?
- Is my “voice” clear?
2. Don’t stop practicing
Most of us are busier than ever. The thought of carving out a few extra minutes to write can be a hard pill to swallow.
But, if you want to become a better writer, this is something you can’t miss out on.
I like to imagine that writing is a muscle. The more you exercise, the stronger it’ll get. The less time you dedicate, the weaker it’ll become. Maintaining its strength will require persistence and dedication.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go out and write a full-length novel within a month, but it does mean you should be consistent with your practice — just try not to pressure yourself too much.
If this point seems overwhelming, take it slow for the first week or so. As time goes on, you can increase the amount you practice to further develop the muscle.
Now, you’ll need to like writing to make this tip one you actually enjoy. You’ll run out of inspiration in a flash if this process is boring and repetitive.
If you’re short on ideas, here are some ways to make writing fun:
- Use a writing journal to write in before bed.
- Using a timer, see how many words you can type out within 15–30 minutes (also known as “word sprints”). Don’t worry about what you write in these — just write!
- Come up with the craziest, most unpredictable “What If?” scenario you can think of, then write about what you think would happen if it came true.
- Write a letter to your past self.
- Most importantly, write what you want to write. Or else, what’s the point?
3. Develop a writing ritual (without the sorcery)
Humans are creatures of habit. It’s what makes it so easy for us to wake up in the morning, interact with the same people, places, and things as the day before, and not go crazy in the process.
If you’re like the average person, you also have a few regular habits you partake in daily. There are the simple ones, like brushing your teeth and showering before bed (you do do that, right?), and then the personal ones, like reading a goodnight story to your kid or staying up until midnight playing video games (guilty).
Now what if I told you that you can use this to your advantage? That you could squeeze another habit into your list — one centered around writing — and reap the benefits?
Based on personal experience, I can say this 100% works.
If you’re wondering, my ritual looks a bit like this:
Every day I wake up bright and early to get my freelance writing out of the way before getting to the rest of my day (i.e., running errands, working out, doing schoolwork, etc.). It’s usually not until evening that I have time to be creative; this is my time to work on this blog or another personal writing project.
But, because I’m so used to this routine, my brain is hardwired to kick into “writing mode” once I sit in my chair at seven or eight p.m. By the time I get into bed, I’ve written no less than 1,000 words.
It’s nothing crazy — I don’t have a special song or a phrase I whisper to get my brain in the right space — but it works.
However, compared to last year when I didn’t even make an attempt at daily structure, the results are wildly different. Instead of having a set “writing time,” I would mostly write when I felt like writing at random hours of the day. This made it far too easy to procrastinate; even when I did want to write, I’d find my creative juices dried up quickly or straight-up failed to start.
If you have yet to use this brain hack to write more every day, you should consider developing a “ritual” as soon as you can. Not only will it get you to practice the craft more often but, if you play it right, also make you excited to do so!
Struggling to develop your writing routine? Here are some tips to get you started:
- Select a chunk of your day that you can dedicate to 100% uninterrupted writing: whether it’s for an hour, thirty minutes, or three.
- Avoid procrastination like the plague. Text messages, social media notifications, emails, and other distractions will eat up your writing time like ants at a picnic.
- Experiment! If writing in the morning doesn’t seem to work for you, try evenings. If you can’t stand the silence, try writing with soft music in the background. Whatever works.
4. Read like your life depends on it.
Without a doubt, this writing tip is the closest to my heart.
No matter what kind of writer you want to be, you can’t expect to develop your craft unless you consistently read similar work in your field.
If you want to be an adult thriller novelist, this means taking a trip to the library or bookstore and picking up other titles in the genre. If you’re hoping to be a freelance copywriter, this means going to company websites and reading through their blogs and other written content.
To put it simply, read what you want to write.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should be copying the styles you see in other work. While everyone’s voices — including my own — will always reflect bits and pieces of others, understand that this practice should only influence your personal style: nothing more.
To do this successfully, you’ll need to “read like a writer.” This method takes some getting used to, but once you have it down, you’ll see your writing skills flourish.
Reading like a writer means keeping some of these questions in mind:
- What is and isn’t working in this piece?
- How is the writer making this piece memorable?
- Is there anything I would change or do differently to improve the piece?
- How could I employ some of these writer’s methods in my own work?
The more you read, the longer the answers to these questions will remain in your subconscious and reflect in your writing. Only by understanding what separates good writing from bad writing can you hope to improve your craft. It’s a journey that never ends!
Even if it’s solely for pleasure, I’ve also found that reading is an incredible motivator: something that can be especially useful if you find yourself losing the inspiration to write.
- Read the piece more than once.
- Annotate (or take notes, if it’s an electronic piece).
- Know what you want to learn (i.e., word choice, flow, tone, etc.).
Writing can often be intimidating. Hell, even I hesitate to touch my keyboard every now and then — and I’ve been writing ever since I could touch a pencil (impostor syndrome is no joke!).
But, like anything else, it gets easier with time. By following these writing tips and regularly practicing your craft, you can turn into the writer you’ve always dreamed of becoming.
Thanks for Reading!
What’s the first writing tip you ever heard? Which tips do you think other writers should know about? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!