I try to visit the websites of other writers as often as I can. While visiting their pages I often come across little ‘bits of gold’ about how to improve your writing. Sometimes it is a simple tip on how to write faster, other times it is a little grammar tip, and other times something completely different. In addition, over the last four years as a freelance writer, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks that have helped me along the way.
As I was trying to come up with a new post for today, I thought, HEY! Why not share these tips I put together over the course of my writing career. I’ve got way more than ten tips, of course, but these are the ones that came to mind first. While they are primarily for freelancers, they should help any writer. If you’ve got great tips you’d like to share, please post them in the comments below, and maybe I’ll include them in another post down the road!
- Read Your Work Out Loud – One of the best proofreading tips I’ve ever learned is to read my work out loud after I’ve finished it. I don’t do it on all my posts (as you can likely tell from the fact that my work often has type-o’s) but when I am writing for a client or someone who needs their work to be perfect, this is my #1 way to avoid errors. It only takes a few minutes, and I always catch at least a few little problems.
- Word-Cloud Generators – One problem many writers have is using the same types of phrases too often throughout their writing. To help combat this, take your writing and paste it into a free word-cloud generator such as the one at www.tocloud.com. This will generate a word cloud, which shows the words you’re using most. This is a simple way to see where you might want to rephrase things or adjust your wording.
- Don’t be Afraid of Poor Writing – This was critical for me at the beginning. I was always afraid that my writing wouldn’t be good enough for my clients (or for my website). This made me hold back on writing and not really start pushing this as a business for a long time. Since then I’ve learned that I need to be more confident. Sure, my writing isn’t perfect, and many people might not like it. Some people, however, love my writing style, and I know that the only way to get better is to write every day!
- Have Your Computer Read Your Work – Just like tip #1, except it is a little more automated. You can have your computer read any text you want. Since it will be in a different voice, and you won’t be following along with your eyes, you’ll likely catch phrases that sound awkward when read out loud. While tip #1 is great for catching visual problems (missed commas, the wrong ‘your’ vs ‘you’re’ and things like that) this one helps to ensure your content flows well. The way I do this is email my work to myself so it goes to my iPhone. Then just select the text on my phone and have Siri read it to me.
- Just Start Writing – When you’re having trouble coming up with something to write, the best thing you can do is to just start typing something. Worst case scenario is you have to go back and delete it all, but at least you were doing something. That is far better than just sitting there looking at a blank screen. If nothing else, just start writing out one word for each letter of the alphabet, this will help you to come up with ‘outside the box’ ideas. When I get stuck, sometimes I’ll start typing, “Apple, banana, cucumber, daffodil…” and so on. If you’re working on a specific topic, try to come up with words around that. If not, any words will do!
- READ – As a writer, one of the best things you can do to improve your craft is to read what other people are writing. This could be reading a website like this one, or reading a book, or a screenplay or anything else. The more you read, the more you will come up with ways to improve your own writing.
- Write Drunk; Edit Sober (Ernest Hemingway) – While I am not sure if Ernest Hemingway actually said this or not, he is credited with it, and it isn’t really a bad idea. Some of my best work has come after having a glass or two of nice scotch, or a few good beers. Sure, I make more mistakes, but it really opens up the creative side for me since I’m not over thinking anything.
- Foreign Music – I can’t write well when it is silent, but most music is distracting because I’m listening to the words. The solution to this, for me anyway, is to listen to foreign music (or classical, but I prefer foreign). I LOVE listening to Gregorian chant, and since most of it is in Latin, it isn’t distracting. It just sets the right tone for writing. Find what works for you, and make a Pandora station for it! My Pandora is always either playing chant, or Opera!
- Write the Conclusion First – If you’re not sure how to start a story, an article, or anything else, try writing the ending first. Even if you just pound out an ending paragraph that will often give you the ideas you need to get going on the rest of the piece.
- Eliminate Facebook – Facebook is a huge distraction for me. When I know I need to get stuff done, I close out Facebook (and email, and other sites) and FOCUS on writing.
I hope these have helped! If you have any to add, please comment below. Also, consider sharing them using any of the ‘social sharing’ buttons below!