Want to become a better writer?
Even though it may seem difficult to write well, there are a few simple things you can do to dramatically improve your writing in a short time. These principles apply to any genre. Whether you are blogging, writing a novel or working on an essay for school, these 9 tips will bring your writing to a whole new level.
Try one or two out, work on them for a week, and then add others. You will notice a huge improvement in your writing. I promise.
1. Read like a writer.
The best thing you can do to improve your writing is to read! When you open a book, look at it with a writer's eyes. What did the author do that you want to emulate in your own writing?
A client of mine wanted to write like Hemingway. He bought this book of short stories, and together, we read a story in each of our writing sessions. We break the writing apart, piece by piece, asking questions like, "What did he do here? Why did he use a semicolon here? What types of ideas did he use to open this story?"
After a few weeks of this, his writing noticeably became more straightforward, concise, and powerful. It was a great lesson for both of us.
You can do the same thing with bloggers you love. Read their posts and really pay attention to their writing techniques. Then modify them for your own blog.
2. Be specific
"Be specific…Give things the dignity of their names."
Don't write "car," write "Camaro." Don't write "flower," write "gardenia."
It is amazing how much more powerful writing is when each object is given a specific name and each verb describes an exact action.
Compare the following two sentences:
The boy ate lunch.
The 10 year old gobbled his tuna sandwich.
Notice how changing "boy" to "10 year old," "ate" to "gobbled," and "lunch" to "tuna sandwich" made the sentence come alive?
Look through your own writing. Where can you replace a vague word with a more specific one?
Want more on being specific in your blog posts? Read this.
3. Write from a dog's eye view
When I taught 3rd grade, I found that many of my students described an event that lasted hours in a single sentence: "We went to the party and had fun."
"Write from a dog's eye view," I urged them. "You are writing like a bird, hovering over the story, instead of seeing it from the inside."
When you write, approach your topic from a dog's eye view – a place where you can see each detail intimately.
Instead of "We went to the party and had fun," you can write, "I picked my cousin Gloria up at 5. She was wearing a yellow dress and red lipstick. Her present for the birthday girl was a dinosaur stuffed animal. Mine was a Hello Kitty purse." Suddenly a sentence becomes a world you can enter and walk around in.
Keep getting closer and closer to the subject until it slows down. Then your reader can enter it with you.
4. Be surprising
Keep your readers on their toes!
Why did people love The Glass Castle so much?
The first scene, in which the writer, Jeanette, is in a taxi and sees her homeless mom looking through a dumpster, grabs the reader's attention immediately. This is only a taste of all of the shocking moments to come.
What can you do to surprise your readers? Open with a quote, or with a vivid scene. Take a new twist on an old topic. If you are describing something familiar, do it in way that makes readers rethink their previous conceptions.
Or close your piece with an unexpected insight.
5. Use figurative language
Why not throw in a fewsimiles and metaphors?
They will make your writing as noticeable as a wailing baby in a supermarket.
Or give human characteristics (personification) to a place or idea. –The ancient house groaned all night, wrinkles filling its walls.
6. Get to the point.
Don't write any more than you have to.
Make your point and then move on.
People want to get to the action. Use descriptive words, but only enough to invite readers into the scene. Strongly state your opinion, offer 2 or 3 strong examples, and then let your reader make up his or her own mind.
Don't state the obvious; assume that your readers can fill in the blanks.
7. Choose your words carefully.
Words not to use: good, nice, cool, awesome, bad, mean….and any other bland word you can think of.
Go back through your writing and circle boring words. Then use thesaurus.com to come up with better alternatives. Also look for repetition.
Instead of overusing a word, find 3 or 4 synonyms and mix it up a bit.
8. Play with sentence structure.
Go back over your writing and look at the lengths of your sentences. Are they all the same length? If so, consider either shortening some of them into more terse sentences, or joining two into one longer, more flowing sentence. Do you always begin with your subject?
The dog chomped a bone. The bone was stinky. She dropped it and sniffed the grass.
Mix it up a bit:
Noisily, the dog chomped her stinky bone. She dropped it and sniffed the grass, wagging her butt from side to side.
If you want to be a better writer, write more! In Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, he wrote that to excel at anything, you need to do it for at least 10,000 hours! So get writing. Write every day if you can. Let yourself write the worst junk in the world, just keep practicing. And while you're at it, try some of the other tips!