Friday, March 4, 2011

50 tips for becoming a better writer

  1. Read every day.
  2. Write every day.
  3. Then read and write some more.
  4. Read aloud what you have written.
  5. Surround yourself with quality writing friends.
  6. Such as those in a writing group, whether online or in real life.
  7. Take a class on writing.
  8. Send off that article, short story or book to a publisher, agent or editor. You'll never be able to test the waters until you do, and you might get back some solid feedback even if your material is not accepted.
  9. Hook up with a small-press magazine and offer to read from their "slush" pile for at least a month. Most likely they'll take you on. You will learn a lot. But you will also be quite bored and frustrated at times.
  10. Once you have completed the first draft of a writing project, set it off to the side for a while, perhaps a month, perhaps six months. That way, when you come back to it, you will be doing so with fresh eyes.
  11. Study spelling.
  12. Study grammar.
  13. Study punctuation.
  14. Whenever you read something you really enjoyed, go back and read it again, but this time with a critical eye. Try to figure out how and what the author did that you felt worked so well.
  15. Interview an author.
  16. Or editor.
  17. Or publisher.
  18. Or anyone related to the publishing field.
  19. Get a job at a newspaper, even if it's only part-time and/or at a smaller newspaper. It will open your eyes to a lot.
  20. Look for inspiration in the mundane. There are story ideas all around us.
  21. Work on developing a thick skin. You're going to need it. Writing and publishing often comes with letdowns.
  22. Study great authors. Maybe even make a list of authors whom you have enjoyed, and read them. Study them. Learn them, and how they do what they do.
  23. Turn off your television for a month.
  24. Maybe the Internet, too.
  25. And the cell phone or PDA or whatever gadget that sucks up your time. At least for a while.
  26. Study the markets. I'm talking short magazines and book publishers for the most part, but newspapers and online venues should also be considered. Learn what is selling to editors and publishers, and learn what people want to read.
  27. But try to be original. What's hot today might not be hot next week.
  28. If you feel you are in a rut, step outside your comfort zone. Try something totally different, something you never thought you'd do. If you write mostly fiction, try to put together a non-fiction article. If you write mostly romance stories, try your hand at a Western.
  29. Also, read outside your comfort zone. If you're a science fiction fan, pick up a historical novel. If you read mostly fiction, pick up a biography. Try something different. Story ideas and techniques can come from all over.
  30. Study a different kind of writing, something you never thought you'd try. If you've never written a poem, give it a try. If you only write novels, consider working on a screenplay.
  31. Self-publish an e-book online. You will learn quite a bit from this process. Just make sure you have quality material before doing so, of course.
  32. Pretend you are a potential reader or customer. Would you buy your story or book or article?
  33. Visit a good book store. If this doesn't whet your appetite to write, nothing will.
  34. Start a blog. It might get you to writing every day.
  35. Start your own magazine. You'll definitely learn from this process.
  36. Go for a walk. It will give you time to think about your writing projects.
  37. Don't whine.
  38. Don't forget to promote yourself, but try to do so withing being annoying. Promotions is often the key to being a successful writer.
  39. Be patient. It can take time to become good at your craft.
  40. Spend time thinking about what you want out of your writing. Do you want to write for a living? Or is writing a hobby for you? Nothing is wrong with either choice, but thinking through this stuff will make you better prepared for where to go with your writing.
  41. Have a plan. Especially if you want to write or already write for a living. This will allow you to keep deadlines, whether set by someone else or by yourself.
  42. Pay attention to others when in public. No, don't become a stalker, but listen in on chatter at restaurants and such. This will not only help you with studying dialogue, but it might give you some great story ideas.
  43. Stop looking for shortcuts. There are none. It takes time to become a good writer.
  44. Try to be objective about your own writing. Far too many writers can't do this, or they don't want to. Which is a waste of time. You have to be realistic about your own writing, and its weaknesses, if you ever want to succeed.
  45. Learn to blank out the world. This is a tough one for many people, but it can be done with practice. Some people can't write unless they have absolute quiet and a perfect little place to write. But that's not realistic. How often is it going to happen? For most people, not very often. So learn to write when there's noise, when you're around other people, etc.
  46. Write to your personality strengths. Are you funny? If so, try to write comedic stories and articles. Are you a dark, dour sort of person? Then write some horror short stories. Is religion prominent in your life? If so, write articles related to your theology, or even consider fiction based upon your beliefs.
  47. Writing can be lonely work, especially if it's your day job and you spend a lot of time doing it. Make sure to socialize! Otherwise your mind will dull down on you, and that's not good for writing.
  48. Don't worry about whether your book or story or article sells. Thinking about this can drive you crazy. Instead, go on to the next project. If a particular project doesn't sell, send it on to another editor or publisher. Or consider reworking it some, if you've heard feedback from others and you felt it was correct.
  49. If you write for a living, keep it professional. Don't complain to editors. Don't mouth off to readers. Yes, you will get a bad reputation. And yes, this will effect your ability to make sales.
  50. Remember, there are no rules in writing. If someone tells you otherwise, they are wrong. Any "rules" in writing are meant to be broken. Though maybe not by you. Maybe by someone else. But still, the "rules" of writing are broken all the time.
More writing links
The Importance of Editing Your Writing

Writing for a Living, a blog for online writers
Horror and fantasy author's blog

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