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Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

by The Procrastinating Writer on July 28, 2009

courtesy of indi.ca

courtesy of indi.ca

By Jennifer Blanchard

Yesterday, Mary Jaksch (of Write to Done) wrote a guest post on Copyblogger that listed 73 tips for becoming a better writer.

Here are some of my favorite tips:

  • Become a blogger.
  • Use self-imposed word limits.
  • Accept all forms of criticism and learn to grow from it.
  • Take a break between writing and editing (Stephen King recommends at least 6 weeks).
  • Challenge yourself: write in a crowded cafe, write on the toilet, write for 24 hours straight.
  • Read, think, read, write, ponder, write – and read some more.
  • Make notes of your (fleeting) brilliant ideas.
  • Avoid passive voice.
  • Be inspired by other art forms–music, dance, sculpture, painting.
  • Read your old stuff and acknowledge how far you’ve come–and how far you have to go.
  • Tell everyone: “I’m a writer.”
  • Recognize your fear and overcome it.
  • Try new ideas or hobbies–the more variety you have in your life, the more likely you are to keep on generating good ideas on the page.
  • Join a writing group. If you can’t find one, form one.
  • Break out of your comfort zone.
  • Write at the scene. If you want to write about a beach, get a picnic rug and go write by the sea.
  • Go to the supermarket, the ball game, the class room, the building site. Make notes of the sensuous details, the atmosphere, the people. (Changing scenery can really spark your creativity.)

Visit Copyblogger to read the rest of the 73 tips. And be sure to read the comments section…there are many, many additional tips readers shared.

And here are some additional writing tips from me:

Do you have an additional tips to share? Leave them in the comments.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shaylen Maxwell July 29, 2009 at 12:21 am

Great tips! & yes, I think I’m on the cusp of burn out again. . . I never learn to pace myself enough.

PS the tips on standing out are awesome! : )

2 Larry July 29, 2009 at 9:22 am

A great list, this. But with due respect, I think they are all empowered by highlighting a deeper level of “tip” for writers, a context that should overlay it all. And yet it isn’t here on the Copyblogger list. Allow me to remedy that.

The best tip any writer of fiction can hear is this: you need to study and understand story architecture. You need to know your way around four-part story structure, and you need to own the various milestones and criteria that make it work.

Story architecture is like ground school to a pilot, medical school to doctor, law school to a lawyer. That may sound obvious, but now many writers do you know that just set off down the storytelling path armed only with an intuitive understanding of story, based mostly on their reading experience? Professional athletes go to “spring training” yearly, they ground themselves in fundamentals throughout the entirety of their career.

If you don’t know what I mean by “story architecture” — I mean, really know — than perhaps this is an opportunity for you to take your writing to the next level. Because there IS a standard story template, and there ARE specific criteria for a variety of elements that comprise and effective story. Are you guessing? Hoping? Not caring? Published writers GET it.

Once you get story architecture, you can actually evolve an idea into a fully-fleshed out story, sometimes even in your head, quickly and efficiently. No longer will you be forcing good ideas into bad stories. Which means that what comes out of your head is solid, and your drafts are less a search than a realization.

Forgive the shameless plug here, but I think it relates: my site, http://www.storyfix.com, is all about story architecture. In fact, I expanded on these tips and many more — some of them completely new — in my new ebook, “101 Slightly Unpredictable Tips for Novelists and Screenwriters,” which comes out later this week.

Thanks for frequenting this site, Procrastinating Writers, which is a terrific resource that I’ve just discovered, and will visit often. The more we study storytelling, the better we get at it.

3 The Procrastinating Writer July 29, 2009 at 11:04 am

@Shaylen Maxwell I’m glad the tips were helpful for you!! And yes, burnout can be a serious problem for writers, so be sure to take lots of breaks, relax once in awhile and don’t beat yourself up if you skip a day of writing (just don’t skip too often, haha).

@Larry Thanks so much for commenting! I agree that story architecture is the foundation of writing well. Beginning writers–or even advanced writers who haven’t quite “gotten” it yet–can benefit from a reeducation in the basics.

Be sure to check out Larry’s site, which has tons of awesome advice. I read it everyday.

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