Being a writer can be a way of life for many. I know I have struggled in the past, recalling how I can be better. Feeling indisposed, I resort to a full pint of ice cream, a bottle (or two) of wine and a night to myself in bed. Hell, I recall a long nights soak in the tub with one of those divine LUSH bath bombs. Of course, we all feel this one way or another. But, with a few minutes, I can give YOU a few tips to make you a better writer. With time, patience and practice, you will be a better writer in no time!
As I have previously, and briefly stated, practice is one of the most important steps to the practice of writing. Just like yoga, or learning math or any other disliked topic, you have to slow down, read, study and possibly even take a tutor on to help you with those basic (or advanced) skills. I have found that a notebook and paper, or an open untouched Microsoft Word document can be of help. It doesn’t matter if you write about your day, or that inspirational quote on your Pinterest wall that you posted three days ago. Perhaps there is a burning passion to get a character on paper and turn it into something tangible. Either way, getting that out on paper is valuable.
Make yourself a goal within that time of practice. Maybe it is to write everyday for a week for 20 minutes. Then you can increase the time frame and duration of writing. It will make that hard to break habit a daily part of your routine in no time!
What, really? Reading?
Yes! Reading for a small portion of your day will sincerely help. I have found reading in the morning with coffee or before bed is not only a great way to relax for myself personally. The great thing is that you’re picking up various writing styles as you read different authors.
Create a writing style
The best thing to do is to learn the best writing skills, be able to adhere to the rules of writing and then learn how to break them and when it is appropriate. Pesky commas, thwarting apostrophes and unacceptable pronouns can make for some hazardous writing. Pick up a writing book that will help. I have one from my college days and I use it on the regular. Basic Writing: Process and Purpose is a good one to start. There are several others that will help with basic writing skills.
Get into Freelance Writing
Freelance writing can help in more ways than you think. But you need to pick a niche or genre. Something you are knowledgable about, or want to know. It is as simple as opening a search engine and typing in a key phrase. Just be sure to take Wikipedia with a huge grain of salt (and lime).
With that freelance writing gig you are looking into, now would be a great time to look into a blog. I’m not saying dump $50 per month into something you may not afford right away, but just know you won’t make money right off the get-go. WordPress and Blogger are good ways to start something free. Don’t worry about creating the perfect blog – focus on the key element – the writing! No one will be too dazzled about the design, photos and such within a blog. It’s the writing that they are looking for and exactly what you should be contacted for.
Other ways of freelance writing are looking into job boards. Craigslist has had a few that I have done in the past that were of good pay. Upwork is another good one that has helped me grow as a writer. I have heard of Freelancer being successful for many so you may want to look into that one as well. Basic job search engines, such as indeed and monster.com may also have something listed that you can take advantage of later on down the road, so don’t throw that idea of those two sources out.
Don’t succumb to writer’s block
Writer’s block can be one frigid bitch. I have learned over the years is to not let writer’s block get to you. Even with my college papers I used to write back in the day, I would open the school library on my computer, type in a few key words and read on my topic. Eventually the ideas and words came, my fingers would be on fire. I would spend 3-4 hours writing and have a near eight pages complete on a ten-twelve page project. It is amazing how accomplished you would feel after that move!
If you’re writing a story, just write about the day, or the next scene you have in mind. I like to mark my pages so I know that there is that gap above that will eventually need to be filled at a later time. I will add ****** or ——– and center them in my writing, bolded to indicate the gap. Any ideas for that space are italicized and bolded so I know those are not character thoughts, maybe even change to a deep green or blue to indicate it is not regular text.
Spellcheck is the best tool to use when you are editing your work. Whether you are using the actual spellcheck within the Word program, it is a sure fire way to build those skills that you need.
Grammarly is one of my favorite sources and has been since I was a freshman in college, still use it to this day. It is as simple as copy the text, paste it and it will edit everything within that box, making suggestions on how to fix it.
Another great source to use that I was recently introduced to is Hemingway Editor. Let me know if you use it!
Then you have the two greats: the dictionary and a thesaurus. Webster’s has a free edition you can pull up online. Some computers have an application already installed when you buy them. Apple has a few you may also purchase for your preference, but the free ones work just as fine.
There will be a lot of it. Take it with a grain of salt, appreciate it, use it to your advantage and move on!
Read your writing
Yes, it is that simple!
I like to accomplish my work a full day or two in advance. When I am done, I will spend the day doing other things with my family. Watch a movie, go for a drink with a girlfriend – anything to get your mind off what you just wrote. After a full 24 hours, go read it out loud. Read it to your partner, a friend or parent. Hell, read to the wall or the cat. You will be able to get feedback from a person, and audibly hear those gaps, run-ons and awkward sentences.
Shorter time span? Take 30 minutes or an hour – go run, take a shower and then come back to your writing. Any amount of a short break that is within your time crunch should help. Just remember to get up, away from the computer and not think about it.
Remember me mentioning a tutor? Well, you can! There are several workshops and classes you can take for free, check out a local book store since most of them have a writers group or class where you can read your work out loud. They will criticize your work and help you grow. Barnes and Noble may be one that offers a class (I know it does in my area), even check your college to see what they offer if you want to take a class or two (at a cost of course). There are also writing tutors that can helping your area or remotely via Skype or facetime based services.
When you begin to write, whatever it is, don’t be afraid to add any thought that you may have. The editing will come later. It will be easier to cut the unnecessary pieces of the writing, the sentences that repeat its predecessor, the words that become redundant, etc. Writing should be fluid, but in order to be a good writer, learning what is needed or should not be included is how we build. Write anything and everything on your mind!
The last piece of this writing enigma: DO NOT procrastinate, and set a deadline for yourself. The worst thing any writer can do is start something and finish it two weeks later. It will sound choppy and horrible. Honestly, I look back at work that I have done like that, I lose my momentum and the voice isn’t the same person. Writing daily or setting up a feasible schedule is vital. If there is a paycheck involved, be sure to adhere to any agreed upon deadlines. Don’t procrastinate!
Good luck and happy writing!