Tag Archives: writing

What You Need to Know About Writing: Tricks for Everyone

what to know about writing

Wow, there’s a lot of writing advice online. Seems like every blogger and writer has a tip or trick they swear by, some must-follow technique that unlocks the door of writing victory. But for every post about good advice, there’s another quoting someone famous who offers a counterpoint to debunk it.

So just what should everyone know about writing, and what tricks can be found to improve their craft, and chances of success?

We found this topical thread over on Quora asking “What should everyone know about writing?”. And like elsewhere online, there’s a lot of practical advice and tips on improving writing methods, but only a few actually answered the thread question. We decided to delve into it a bit further, and see what answers apply equally to all aspiring writers. Read on, and see what insights were found.

What You Need to Know About Writing

The noun writing has two applicable descriptions for our purposes, as found in the Miriam-Webster dictionary. They are:

The activity or work of writing books, poems, stories etc.”      

And,

“The way that you use written words to express your ideas or opinions.”

So, to break it down into the basic components, writing is work and a manner in which you arrange words to communicate ideas. Seems simple enough…

Writing is Work

Even if your writing is strictly hobbyist in nature, it still takes work to communicate your ideas clearly. It’s certainly one of the more common themes at the Quora thread. Here’s a sampling of quotes from contributors on the idea of writing as work:

  • “It’s a full time job. To be successful you must be disciplined.” Zachary Norman
  • “Good writing takes work, the desire to learn the craft, a thick skin, and practice.” Deanna Kizis
  • “Writing is work. Thinking about what we are writing is work.” T.L. Wagener

To successfully share your ideas and opinions, you have to put in the time and effort to develop the skill of writing. That’s what work is, you diligently apply yourself through repetition to learn the steps necessary to master a skill.

And how do you become proficient at any skill? With practice, of course. Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com has this to say about learning the craft of writing: You can practice what you do. You practice it by writing, by reading, by living a life worth writing about. You must always be learning, gaining, improving.” Sound like work, right?

And Michael Nye, in a post at the missourireview.com echoes Mr. Wendig’s point with the following: “The writers achieving success are hard working. Being the most talented writer doesn’t necessarily translate into publishing success, which really comes from methodical and consistent work rather than raw talent.”

While talent is nice, you’ve either got it or you don’t. But a skill set is learnable, and writing is a learnable skill. And as with any new skill, the more time and attention you invest in its practice, the more proficient and, ironically, talented you’ll become.

And what should you practice? The basics. Start with the fundamentals of strong writing:

  • Spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  • Build your vocabulary.
  • Learn how to compose a sentence, and to organize your thoughts into a paragraph.
  • Master the active voice and how to use action verbs.
  • Develop editing skills and how to eliminate unnecessary wordiness.

In a post for WriteToDone, Glen Long sums up the learning process in these three steps – study, practice and feedback. “This learning cycle is essential because it helps you to hone your writing instincts. It trains the internal critic that guides the hundreds of tiny decisions you make each time you sit down and write.”

The trick here isn’t very tricky, but one that’s apt to be bypassed in the rush to be published. It’s this – you have to know the rules before you can break them.  Writing is work. To become really good at your work, you must practice the necessary skills. And the necessary skills to practice are writing basics.

The Way You Use Words

The second description of writing relates to your voice. It’s the way you use written words to express your ideas or opinions. Your voice is the one truly original thing about your writing. While style, form and structure are all derivatives modeled from the work of others, your voice is your unique perspective. It’s one of a kind.

Why develop your voice? Jeff Goins gives a pretty clear explanation: “Finding your voice is the key to getting dedicated followers and fans and that’s the only sustainable way to write.”

And this comment from Cori Padgett in a post at Copyblogger.com gets straight to the point: “It seems that in my rather meandering journey to becoming a ghostwriter-cum-blogger, I unexpectedly stumbled upon what seems to be the Holy Grail for many aspiring writers. I’m talking about my voice.”

To share your ideas and your opinions, it must come from your voice – and your voice needs to be heard in a multitude of ways. From the above post, we have three great tricks to develop your voice:

  • Speak your readers’ language. Talk to them in everyday language they understand and can relate to.
  • Know why you’re writing. Without a purpose, writing can seem flat and lifeless. Infuse it with the passion that comes from knowing your purpose for writing.
  • Brand it. Stamp your work with your individuality, let your idiosyncrasies show in rhythm, word selection and tone. It’s the best way for your readers to get to know you.

In conclusion, perhaps the best tricks we can offer everyone to know about writing are simply to be yourself and to invest in your writing success by learning the basics. You need to pay your dues… so, get to work.

17 Blogs Writers Should Follow

blogs writer should follow

You can see it in your mind’s eye, can’t you? Your name boldly embossed on the jacket of your first novel. Or your sparkling blog posts, with first page rankings on Google, over and over again.

Well, if you yearn to become a better writer, we’ve pulled together this list of 17 blogs you should follow. We’ve located the top blogs to find the best on-topic, contemporary advice to hone your writing chops, find inspiration, market your wares and publish your work.

Freelance Writing

1. About Freelance Writing

With several decades of experience as a freelancer and ghostwriter, Anne Wayman answers questions on freelancing and provides tips and resources for finding paying gigs, increasing your rates and all things freelance. Learn her secrets to mastering how to write, rewrite, market and run your writing business.

2. Make Living Writing

Carol Tice’s success as a freelance writer makes her one of the premier freelancers online today. Drink deeply of Carol’s knowledge as she guides the new writer to the well of freelance success and prosperity – it’s her obsession to help new writers make money.

3. The Renegade Writer

Following on the success of her book The Renegade Writer with Diana Burrell, this blog by Linda Formichelli is an extension of the concept that freelance writing should be tailored to suit the writer, not vice versa. Plenty of solid tips on developing your style, overcoming fear, staying motivated and making money as a freelancer – and all designed to boost your career.

Blogging

4. Boost Blog Traffic

From the brilliant mind of Jon Morrow, expert advice on how to build a noteworthy blog is based on solid writing and marketing techniques, outstanding value and building relationships with the influencers in your niche.

5. Problogger

Darren Rowse started Problogger to record his efforts to monetize his blog, and to hook up with a community of like-minded bloggers. Learn best blogging practices and online writing methods as well as how to add income to your blog from one of the best. Check out Problogger’s job board for writers as well.

Writing Advice

6. Advice to Writers

This blog’s content is compiled by successful author Jon Winokur. His “writerly wisdom of the ages” comes to us via insightful and exclusive interviews with authors, an outstanding resource section, numerous articles and essays together with an inspirational quote of the day. Advice to Writers is a treasure trove for all aspiring writers and well worth following.

7. Writer Unboxed

Writer Unboxed comes to us from novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton, who share the latest tips and techniques for successful writing career. With contributions from industry experts and bestselling authors, there’s a wealth of information and insights “about the craft and business of fiction.”

8. Dani Shapiro

Author of several novels and best selling memoirs, Dani Shapiro shares her insightful and poignant acumen on writing and life. This is an excellent site for artistic inspiration when you’re feeling shaky about writing. Or life.

9. Writers In The Storm

A collaborative effort from founding writers Laura Drake, Jenny Hansen, Orly Konig Lopez and Fae Rowan, Writers in The Storm focuses on the craft of writing and providing ongoing inspiration for all writers who must “weather the storm within”.

Copywriting

10. The CopyBot

Chief copywriter at Copyblogger Media, Demian Farnworth is on a mission to “write clear, concise and compelling copy” that’s pleasing to the search engine gods and that readers find captivating. The CopyBot gives us practical and insightful advice on how to create outstanding headlines, high-quality content and effective CTA’s.

Writers Communities

11. Writers-Network

Writers-Network is a free creative writing community where you can share your writing, get unlimited constructive feedback and connect with others. You can also organize your writing, create a portfolio and post unlimited stories and poems. A great site for support and a safe environment for building the thick skin needed to persevere through the hard times.

Dealing with Rejection

12. Literary Rejections on Display

The place to go to share your rejection misery, LROD is entertaining and light-hearted. A good place to visit whilst on the pity-pot, you can commiserate with all the other writers who’ve been through the pain of rejection.

Marketing and Promotion

13. Amp & Pivot

Founder Jules Taggart has started the BLAH Revolution. Her blog focuses on creating compelling copy to create an emotional connection with your reader or customer. Part copywriting and part inspiration with a good dose of marketing, Amp&pivot is a high-octane site for learning how to get noticed in the noisy world of online writing.

14. Writing Happiness

A website devoted to developing your online presence – Marya Jan dishes on how to optimize your website, overhaul content and build an email list to help reach your goals.

15. Seth’s Blog

Learn to master the art of self-promotion and marketing with the over 2,500 achieved posts packed with insight and humor from best-selling author and entrepreneur Seth Godin.

Publishing

16. Goins, Writer

Jeff Goins writes about both writing and getting published as he tracks down the answers to how writers make a living, what it really takes to get published and how to pursue passion. True to his belief that “generosity wins”, Jeff liberally shares his experience, knowledge and creativity with all who visit.

17. J.A. Konrath Blogspot

Mystery and thriller author J.A. Konrath’s no holds barred opinions and experiences in publishing, both traditional and self-publishing. With plenty of information about the resources and services he uses for self-publishing plus extensive material for mastering your genre.

And there you have 17 blogs writers should follow to answer just about every question you might have about how to be a successful writer. Enjoy!

Want To Become a Better Writer? Check How Others Do It

become a better writer

Looking to become a better writer and not too sure where to start? Well, we’ve gleaned the advice of some successful authors and emerging writers to see what they offer for developing successful habits and routines.

So, let’s get right to their inspirational words of wisdom.

Turn off the TV and read as much as possible

From ultra successful author Stephen King, this is his No. 1 tip. Describing TV as “poisonous to creativity”, Mr. King urges new writers to look within themselves to find their creative muse. And in order to be a writer “you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

So, turn of the TV (and the online shows) and let your imagination run free.

Be willing to write really badly

Writer Jennifer Egan suggests allowing yourself to purge all the “bad writing” inside as a preventative measure for writer’s block. She makes the key point that a writer will need to “give yourself permission to do that because you can’t expect to write regularly and always write well.”

Acknowledging that you have some “bad stuff” inside doesn’t make you a bad writer. And permitting the bad writing to surface clears space for the good writing to emerge. Don’t make the mistake of trying to hide or stuff the badness, because it will emerge in other ways. Just allow it to come forth, then let it go and move on to your natural brilliance.

Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs

This is advertising giant David Ogilvy’s recipe for simplicity. To cut through the white noise clamoring for your readers’ attention, be concise, to the point, and clear in your writing – in as few words as possible.

Chunk down your writing project into manageable bits

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott instructs the aspiring writer in the practice of chunking. This is the process of breaking down large projects or goals into their main components, and those components into smaller individual tasks.

By whittling down the project down to bite sized bits, you’ll arrive at the starting point. And then it’s simply a matter of methodically tackling each task individually, then moving on to the next. In this manner, you always know the next step to take which is key in busting overwhelm.

Be honest

We found this thread over at Quora.com on how to become a better writer. Blogger and author James Altucher gives us this gem on being honest in our writing: “Tell people the stuff they all think but nobody ever says.”

Giving voice to those inner thoughts can be controversial for sure, but writing isn’t for the squeamish. If you can’t be honest, you’re not delivering value, and without value your readers will flee.

Use definitive deadlines

In the same thread, bestseller Ben Mezrich uses the practice of personal deadlines to “stay out of trouble and avoid procrastination”. Another sound practice to avoid the daze of overwhelm with all its delay tactics, excuses and unfinished pieces. Determine a page or word count in advance and finish writing when you’ve reached it.

It’s like having a mental countdown clock; as you reach each interim milestone you know progress is being made. This is particularly effective when used with the chunking practice in point #4.

Read everything you write aloud

Another answer on the Quora thread, this time from Ethan Anderson. “Why? Because punctuation is for breaths, and paragraphs are for discrete units.”

Reading aloud is a very effective method to recognize when you’re getting too wordy. If you find your mind getting to the point before your eyes do, it’s time for some discerning editing. It’s also a great way to improve the rhythm and pace of your writing.

Drop the “thought” verbs

Again from Quora, this time from Gurshabad Grover who shared this tip from writer Chuck Palahniuk. “From this point forward — at least for the next half year — you may not use “thought” verbs. These include: ‘thinks’, ‘knows’, ‘understands’, ‘realizes’, ‘believes’, ‘wants’, ‘remembers’, ‘imagines’, ‘desires’, and a hundred others you love to use.”

Seems harsh, doesn’t it? But, Mr. Palahniuk asserts that by using “specific sensory detail”, actions and sensory details, your writing will become stronger. This is the basis of “show, don’t tell” concept for writing – let your characters physical actions and words show what they’re thinking.

Brush up your observation skills

A solid majority of the writers we’ve researched for this piece have a variation of this one, but Margaret Davidson sums it up nicely in A Guide for Newspaper Stringers: “A good writer is a good observer — of people, surroundings, ideas and trends, and the general flotsam and jetsam of the world around.”

Without keen observation, you can’t capture the excitement and interest of life. Use it to broaden the emotional nuances of your words and convey depth and understanding to your characters’ actions.

Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously

And finally to wrap up the post, the above tip from author Lev Grossman seemed appropriate. Take what works for you and throw away the rest – with perseverance, you’ll find your own voice and develop routines that work for you. And you never know, maybe someday a blogger will be quoting your tips for becoming a better writer.

8 Techniques To Structure Your Writing Ideas

creativity warning for freelance writers

Whether you’re writing a novel, a textbook or a short article for your blog, proper structuring your ideas can certainly make your work go more smoothly. Different techniques will work best for different people, so why not try a few and see what is best for you? Perhaps the combination of the approaches mentioned below will help.

Brainstorming

If your mind is full of ideas, you need to get them down fast, so you don’t forget anything interesting! Get a large piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind with regards to your writing project. Don’t worry about details or even about spelling. This is all about ideas. A single word or short phrase will do. Space the ideas out on your paper so you can add to them. This is a very useful tool if you’re working on a project with others as you can jot down your thoughts and ideas as you talk through the work.

Brainstorm bubbles

A brainstorm bubble diagram can be created during a brainstorming session or you can create one afterwards using the notes you gathered during brainstorming. When you have the concepts you want to write about, write down each idea and draw a bubble around it. This keeps each concept separate and it allows you to create the links between them. Draw lines between related concepts and you’ll find an order for creating your final piece of work. This really helps to create a flow for your work when you understand the relationship between the concepts you wish to discuss.

Bullet Points

When you’ve got a piece of paper full of ideas from a brainstorming session, or if you’ve got a pocket full of scraps of notes, get them all together and summarize them all into a list of bullet points. Seeing your ideas condensed like this can really help you to get organized. You can then rearrange your bullet points into the best order and have a great guideline for writing your article.

Flowcharts

Flowcharts are very useful for bringing your concepts together. Learning about the intricacies of flowcharts is time well invested. All written work has a flow and an order, and it can be very useful to create a chart to organize the flow of your document and will help you in the writing process. You’ll find plenty of guides to creating flow charts online and many books have been written on the subject too.

Intro, Body and Conclusion

You are probably familiar with this approach from writing school essays, but don’t dismiss it. It’s not just formal writing that can benefit from being divided up into these three segments. Think about which of your ideas fit best within each area and make a note of them. This process is a good natural progression from a bullet point list.

Word Web

Word webs are similar to brainstorm bubbles and are a popular method of gathering all your information in one place, so you can see the outline of your work at a glance. Write the concept name or main theme in the centre of a piece of paper. Your ideas and relevant points can then be written around the centre. It’s a good idea to write the most important points closer to the centre, this can give you a guideline later as to how much time to spend writing about each point.

Mind Maps

Mind maps are similar to word webs, but with more focus on visuals. Again, the main concept features in the centre of the map, with linked ideas radiating from the central point, attached the centre by a line. The use of colour, drawings and diagrams is common with mind maps, over time you’ll devise your own style of mind mapping. Search online for examples and you’ll find plenty of examples to inspire you.

Mass Collating

If you’re writing an article with information taken from many sources, it can be overwhelming. It’s easy to forget a point you’ve read if you’re looking at a lot of information. A good way to get organized is to take a piece of paper (or open a separate digital document) for each area of your article. As you read through your source materials, add notes to each page. This is in easy way to compartmentalize all your data. When it comes to writing your document, everything is in order for you.

Whichever techniques you use, structuring the ideas is always the key to a good piece of written work. It should make the whole process easier and help prevent the dreaded writer’s block!

Who Invented Writing and What It’s Becoming

If you want the super-detailed high-brow answer to who invented writing equipped with links to volumes of collegiate historical data, then by all means visit the Wikipedia entry. Otherwise, this article is designed to provide a more concise view and then get straight to the modern conceptions of writing.

who invented writing

We’ll begin by defining “writing” as symbols (letters/words) that are used to convey something. With that said it becomes clear we could go all the way back to the first cave dweller to draw on the cave wall, or in the mud.

How did it happen? Was it the protein in our diets, ancient astronauts, cold Darwinian evolution or benevolent Gods? Let’s try not to get lost in abstraction too soon. Writing happened because over a really long period of time humans developed a more and more complex way to communicate with one another.

We developed writing systems so that more people could talk to each other in an easier to understand and efficient way. Writing began as utility.

What Writing Is Transforming Into

Now, here we are in the very early 21st century technological era. First graders today have a completely unique view of what writing and human communication is.

  • Books have become eBooks.
  • Reading is now synonymous with browsing, web surfing and eReading.
  • An increasing portion of all global communication happens in a digital realm.
  • Facebook updates can change lives or begin careers, while Tweets can start or stop social revolutions.

Most human beings are bombarded by advertising and marketing signals over a hundred times a day in tons of different forms. The first thing many millennial folks imagine when the subject of writing is brought up is the blogosphere.

We’re headed towards a near future where one single search engine company commands and acts as the gatekeeper to the brunt of human knowledge. Where the first place the new generations turn to for answers?

How People Become Writers Today

Think back just 10 short years ago, maybe even less and consider what it was like to become an officially recognized, published and professional writer.

  • Right now, if you wanted to you could open up a word processor, jot out page after page of nonsense, slap a snazzy cover image on it and self-publish it on Amazon as an ebook. Then, you could call yourself an ebook writer.
  • You could set up a blog, start blogging and call yourself a blogger. The titles was recently used in the halls of the US Senate and White House.
  • You could sign up for free to any of the online freelancing websites and call yourself a copywriter.
  • You could hop online and study endlessly on how to be a writer for absolutely no cost from your bedroom, or on a beach somewhere using a laptop and a wireless connection. Ivy league college now offer advanced “open-source” writing classes.

Is traditional or conventional education even required anymore to be considered a writer? Are writing classes even necessary? You could call yourself a social media writer and compose updates, tweets and blog comments for people and businesses.

What a writer is now and is becoming is a completely new and unique thing from any other time in human history. You could publish something online, that should it go viral, would possibly be read by people across the globe within minutes, or hours.

The Emergence of Viral Writing

To get an inside perspective of where modern writing is headed, we need only look at it from the standpoint of professional web writers. A new profession really, that’s only just begun to spread. However, already the demand for folks that write specifically for web-audiences is prolific.

  • They don’t need to have any classical writing education whatsoever. In fact, these days it’s uncommon for celebrated web writers to mention their educations at all.
  • The primary goals of their writing is to sell, inform and entertain but many of the conventional rules of writing no longer apply.
    Standard web articles are meant to be easy to scan, and present comparatively bite-size chunks of data.
  • Non-fiction is shrinking at a rapid rate. The majority of people who buy non-fiction online get them in small packages roughly 10-25,000 words which not long ago would have been the average length of a single chapter.

The history of writing and where it’s going is an incredibly complex subject. Right now there’s an extreme lack of attention being given to how writing is transforming. And, along with it, us. What will people think of writing in 2020?

What will it mean to be one at that time? With video and mobile technology advancing so quickly, will there come a time when the written, or textual word is irrelevant?

5 Persuasive Writing Techniques: Creative Confidence

Writing itself, whether fiction or otherwise, is a persuasive art. Right this moment you’re either being convinced or persuaded into moving onto the next sentence, or not. The persuasive ability of this informative web article is directly linked to the value you expect to receive.

You desire to be a more persuasive writer. You yearn to feel creative juices churn inside, and confident in your ability to lead readers from one sentence, subtitle or bullet-point to the next.

Persuasive Writing Techniques

Below are 5 persuasive writing techniques that will undoubtedly help you cover some ground.

Technique #1: Concentrate on Beginnings & Endings

The most persuasive parts of writing are typically located at the beginning and the end of things. Things like chapters, sections or lists. That initial 10%. Come in swinging and go out with a roar (of a dreadful whisper). Taking the liberty to illustrate this point, you’ll see that the first and last words of the sentences below are highlighted.

  • Analyze your writing bit by bit to see if there are words in the beginnings and endings which could be removed or replaced.
  • Jumpstart certain important sentences/parts with a more exciting word, one that asks the reader to become more mentally involved.
  • Strike the fine line between being imaginative and being absolutely to the point and direct.

Don’t go nuts with this technique. All that you need to do is make yourself more aware of how you begin and end your messages. You’ll start to build a connective framework that links things together in a more persuasive way.

Technique #2: Persuasion is Action

The vast majority of the decisions we make in our day to day lives are based on emotion. Actually, when you get right down to it, the lion’s share of all human culture is based on pure unrestrained imagination.

  • Remember that many of us are programmed to expect entertainment whenever we put our faces in front of a “screen.” People read using tablets, laptops, smartphones, iPods, desktops, eReaders etc. All the same things they use for entertainment.
  • To entertain the imagination your writing must move, act, travel, perform and do. The connective tissue and focus on beginnings and endings help you take the reader somewhere.
  • Make your writing travel. Go somewhere. Do something. Be something. Even if you’re just writing product descriptions for Cowboy hats. If you want to persuade people to buy that hat, take’em to a rodeo!

Technique #3: Re-envision Creativity as a Science

Professional web-based article writers have no clue what “writer’s block” even is. In the same way someone who’s never smoked in their lives has no conception of a “nic-fit.” Imagine pumping out 50 articles in one week at 500-800 words long…on 10 different subjects at least 3 weeks of every month.

In case you’re wondering, in that scenario we’re talking about 25,000 to 40,000 words a week, or roughly 100,000 words a month. We’re just ball-parking here. The idea is that “creativity” is more of a science than an art when you don’t have the luxury to sit around wasting time on some hypothetical “writer’s block” phenomenon.

  • Write first, ask questions later.
  • Study up on how to “Kill your darlings.”
  • Once “creativity” is no longer perceived as something you cannot control, it turns into a switch you can flip on or off at will.

Technique #4: Create Character of Your Ideal Reader Beforehand

This is a big one and it goes for most forms of sales, fiction and non-fiction writing. Before you compose something that’s meant to persuade, create three mental prototypes of your ideal reader.

  • Who exactly are you persuading and what exactly is it you want them to do, experience or feel?
  • Create a male and female version of your ideal reader, regardless of whether you’re writing about beer or bras.
  • This exercise in and of itself is going to make you 10% more persuasive even if you give it 3 minutes of thought before writing the first word.

Sounds simple, right? 90% of the writers who are, have been or ever will fail to do this.
They focus on why they’re writing, what they’re writing about and in general who they’re writing for. Many probably know what they want the reader to do, but they don’t REALLY try to become the reader.

Technique #5: Compose Mountains of Advertorial Copy

The question is this: if it takes roughly 10,000 hours of “practice” before we can claim to have mastered something, how much writing does it take? How much persuasive writing equals 10,000 hours of practice?

No one knows for sure, but let’s go back to that hypothetical article writer from before in our discussion. Would it be unreasonable to say that someone could claim to have mastered article writing if they wrote 10,000 of them? That’s a round estimate figure of 5-8 million words.

On, how many subjects? It boggles the mind. The point is that the #1 best way to become a prolific and profound persuasive writer is to start writing and don’t look back.

How do you manage to persuade the reader? Do you think these approaches could work for you? Let us know in comments!