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 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.