Top 10 Writing Tips (Ever)

Top 10 Writing TipsThis is it. The ultimate list of the top 10 writing tips collected from around the web and beyond is here. (Click here for the two writing tips I totally made up.)

1. Write every day

That’s right – I’m starting with the Queen Of All Writing Tips. To be a good writer you must write! Preferably every single day. That doesn’t mean you need to create a well-rounded masterpiece each day, it just means getting yourself into the habit of writing regularly. This means that – whether you realise it or not – you’re continually improving your craft. Stick to your writing schedule and just get words on paper (or screen).

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2. Read

I was debating whether to include this one, as I personally believe most writers are already avid readers. Perhaps “widen the sphere of what you read” is more appropriate. Either way, if you don’t love reading, can you ever really love writing?

3. Keep it simple

4. Leave your work to ‘sit’ for a while

If you have the luxury of time on your side, leave your writing to sit for a day or two and distract yourself with something else. The next time you read your work it will be with a fresh pair of eyes, and you’ll undoubtedly find new ways of improving it that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

5. Don’t proofread as you go

As an extension of the above tip, don’t proofread as you write. Even if you don’t have the time to leave your work for a day or two, try to avoid the temptation of editing your work as you go along. The side of the brain used to creatively construct those perfect sentences is a different part to that used for proofreading and critiquing. Give your work the full attention it deserves in both these areas by separating the two processes completely.

6. Read your work aloud

Another proofreading tip that’s universally acknowledged and used by writers across the globe. Reading your work out loud might startle your family member or flatmate in the next room but it will invariably help you view your work as a ‘reader’ rather than a ‘writer’ – and what better way to spot all those glaringly obvious errors than becoming the objective reader of your work?

7. Be ruthless

As writers we often become too emotionally attached to what we consider to be our best work. Whether you’re writing a book or a blog post, don’t leave bits in just because you’re proud of a particularly well-structured sentence or perhaps a clever metaphor. Try to look at your work objectively and cut parts out that don’t need to be there. Follow American novelist Elmore Leonard’s lead: “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”

8. Always use the active over the passive

Using an active voice over a passive one can make all the difference to your writing. For example, “Beckham kicked the ball” sounds much more dynamic than “The ball was kicked by Beckham.

9. Avoid redundant words and phrases

Don’t use words like “very” or phrases like “at this moment in time” unless absolutely necessary. (Even then, it’s probably not necessary.) Ditch all redundant words and phrases from your work. Your reader/client/editor will thank you for it.

10. Seek out criticism

Learn not only to accept criticism but to actively seek it out. Allow different people to read your work and ask them to respond to it honestly. This tip is always a tricky one and has been left until last so you can mull over the following quote by Neil Gaiman on the subject:

“When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

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Image courtesy of Sarah Reid via Flickr.

4 Comments

  • Morgan Norma

    Reply Reply March 1, 2016

    Thanks Kirsty, great tips! As well as reading my work aloud, when proofreading and editing, I like to change the format of the document. If I wrote it in a word doc, I’ll convert it to a pdf and I nearly always spot mistakes I didn’t catch in the original format.
    I always get something useful or inspiring from your posts, Morgan.

  • Jasper Oldersom

    Reply Reply March 16, 2016

    Hey Kirsty,

    These are definitely the TOP writing tips. They’re all crucial.

    Writing everyday is hard at first, but you won’t become an excellent writer if you only do it when you feel the creative juices flowing. Instead, we need to sit down and just write. I usually end up with plenty of ideas when I just start. 

    I do consider myself an avid reader. If I don’t read and learn new things often, I also find it harder to write. I get most of my inspiration from reading. I’d say reading is just as important as writing.

    Glad that you mentioned that we should avoid editing as we go. It takes away a lot of pressure from having to write perfectly right away and like you stated perfectly, we use different parts of our brains for both tasks!

    Your last tip is uncommon, but it’s a solid tip for any writer! I love that quote by Neil Gaiman, though. It also made me think of this quote by H.G. Wells: “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft”.

    Thank you so much for sharing these fabulous tips, Kirsty. Enjoy the rest of your week!

    – Jasper 

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply March 17, 2016

      You’re very welcome Jasper, and thanks for leaving such an insightful comment.

      I love that H.G. Wells quote – brilliant, and so true! Your own comment, “I usually end up with plenty of ideas when I just start” also resonated with me. This is such a good point – just sitting down and starting to write is usually the hardest part. I find I come up with all sorts of ideas once this first step is taken care of!

      Thanks again for stopping by Jasper!

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