10 Tips for Better Writing

Regardless of whether you’re after 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 tips for better writing, the ones listed below are my favourites. They are the ones that I find myself regularly mentioning in most of the critiquing I do. They are also the ones that after a while can become automatic.

While reading through the 10 tips for better writing and becoming aware of them is a good thing, what I recommend is that when you are writing your draft don’t sit there with your printed sheet of ‘10 Tips for Better Writing’ in front of you. The most important part of writing is getting the words on the page, always is, always will be. So focus on that first, then go through your work and underline the areas that are clichés, weak descriptions, telling not showing, and so on. Write first, edit second. 

So there you go, have fun with my favourite 10 Tips for Better Writing

Use strong descriptive words. 
If there’s one powerful word to describe an emotion, action or event, use it. Avoid words like: very, nice, really. These words, and words like them, are intended to strengthen the descriptive word that comes after them, but instead they tend to lessen the impact. It would be better to use a stronger word entirely. For example: Don’t write ‘very angry’ - use ‘furious’. Don’t use ‘really happy’ - use ‘ecstatic’. 

Vary your sentence length. 
A series of short sentences speeds up the reading process and therefore the story’s pace. Use these when you’re building to a climax, when there’s action and excitement. Long sentences slow down the reader and the story; they work well in between the action and give readers a chance to catch their breath. The plot of a story should be like a walk in hilly country, full of highs and lows. Too much racing to an apex is tiring; too much plodding along is boring. 

Show, don’t tell. 
(If I had to pick my two favourite suggestions in this 10 Tips for Better Writing, this would be one of them.)
Show how a person is feeling instead of telling the reader how the character feels. Describing a character’s actions adds impact, reality and also improves the characterisation in your story in a way that simply stating ‘she said angrily’ or ‘he looked happy’ never will. For example: Don’t tell the reader, ‘she was happy’ - try ‘she hummed quietly to herself, a smile playing on her lips.’ 

Use your reader’s senses. 
(This would be my other favourite in the list of 10 Tips for Better Writing.)
In life we use five senses and as a writer we should also use them in our writing. Let your reader experience your story/article on all levels. 

Avoid tautology. 
Strong writing requires getting rid of unnecessary words, so avoid repeating yourself. For example: ‘He returned back home again.’ If you use ‘returned’, you don’t need ‘back’. Similarly with ‘2 a.m. in the morning’, ‘a.m.’ is unnecessary. 

Don’t overdo the description. 
Often it only takes a couple of sentences to describe a scene; any more than that and you will need to have a good reason for it. Readers don’t always need to see everything, and sometimes just describing a few objects will be enough to paint an outline of the scene. Most of us have enough knowledge to fill in the blanks. 

Avoid clichés. 
If a person can finish a sentence that you start, chances are it’s a cliché. Think up new and better descriptive phrases, similes and analogies. Be original.

Use strong verbs. 
Always ask yourself, ‘Can I find a stronger, more interesting verb?’ ‘Is there a better way to describe an action?’ For example: Which of these statements tells you more: ‘He stood at the bus stop,’ or ‘He lounged against the bus stop’? 

Did you really say what you thought you said? 
Often the picture in our head of what we are writing is so vivid that we think we’ve described it clearly when in fact we haven’t. For example: The work might read, ‘I pulled up outside my favourite shop.’ But had the reader been told the writer was driving a car, or did they have to assume it? 

Make it a circle. 
If you’re writing a story or article, try to make the ending relate to the beginning. Tying up any loose ends and mentioning something that refers back to the beginning can do this. This completion of the circle adds symmetry to the writing. 

There’s a tendency for new writers to self edit as they write their first draft. If possible, avoid this, because it can cause you to focus on the standard of the writing as opposed to the story. Editing is a logical process whilst writing is a creative one, and they use opposite sides of the brain. Many writers find the process a lot more productive if only one side of the brain is used at a time. 

So write your work focusing purely on the creativity, and then come back to edit it using these 10 Tips to Better Writing in a few days or weeks.

If you're interested in learning more this workbook, 'I Want To Write, But Don't Know Where To Start' , has an excellent chapter on learning from life. Just think, wouldn't it be great to improve the depth and skill of your writing just by being more aware on the ride to work, during a discussion, while queueing at the shops, or when you're out having fun?

Not only that, the workbook also covers finding your best topics, how to get past Writers Block, how to find out if you're any good, and so much more. CLICK HERE to find out more. 

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