Ten tips to improve your writing


Art and story by Maureen ~ Mo ~ Conlan, longtime journalist, editor, poet/ fiction writer/artist

1. There is no one absolute right way to write. These ten tips won't magically tell you. How you write depends on how your mind works and other factors, such as real life -- family and jobs.

Some writers write in the morning. There are weekend writers. Binge writers go at it day and night -- then rest for days or weeks. One of the best ways I know to make sure I write is to make a “writing appointment” on my calendar.

If you write for a daily newspaper, as I did for 30 years, no problem. They want it yesterday and the next one right after and you get used to churning stories out ASAP.

2. A hand from heaven will not appear and confirm: “Now you are a writer.” You confirm yourself as a writer. There is a big jolt of joy at seeing your words in print. But being published doesn’t make you a writer. Writing does. Some of the best writers I know are unpublished.

3. Find writing friends. One lonely writer hung out at a bookstore café with a sign on her table: Writers Wanted. She sat solo each morning for weeks. Gradually, writers began to find her. Now, the Monday Morning Writers Group is thriving, with a regular turnout of about 20 and more than 50 writers who receive the weekly meetings notes. We meet at the bookstore to read what we've written, to give and get feedback and to strategize ways to publish.

4. Join or form a writers group in which members are supportive of each other, have goodwill and intelligent comments.

5. Taking classes is a good way to get started or to grow as a writer. Find the right fit for you. Don’t allow a class to discourage you. I once spent a lot of money on a week-long course in novel writing. I learned a method involving massive outlining, index cards and other uninteresting (to me) exercises. I didn’t know there was more than one way to do it and became discouraged. Then I discovered my way. After work each day, I would take a long walk, thinking about what I wanted to write. Then I came home and batted out a rough chapter – until I'd finished my novel. The workshop wasn’t a waste. I learned about scene setting, pacing, plotting (hardest for many writers – how to work the story out to a satisfying end).

6. The “just spit it out” method works for me. Sit down and write without internal editing. The internal editor is a killjoy. After you’ve got your idea or chapter down, later, you can bring in “The Editor” to rearrange paragraphs, rewrite sentences and refine story and idea.

7. Respect your writing. Your words have wisdom, ideas, truths and observations about your own life and all of life.

8. If you want to publish, you can. There are so many ways, now -- from traditional to online, self-publishing and on-demand print.

9. Any writing you do helps all your writing. Writing headlines condenses a story much the way poetry does. News writing teaches how to organize thoughts and tell a story economically. Tweets and twitters open channels to writing thoughts and feelings.

10. Writing is the closest thing to magic I know. It can be work, but find the joy in it.

11. A lagniappe. Write your own Ten Tips for better writing. I bet you know more than you realized.

After reading ten tips, read more tips for writing.

Editing your writing.

Writing as a freelancer.

Write and Publish ~ Visit this web site replete with information
about writing and getting published.

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it up

A writer and noted writing teacher, the late Gary Provost, had many tricks and techniques to help a writer shine up a piece of writing.

At one seminar I attended, he suggested that, after you declare a page of writing "finished," you make a stack of ten quarters (maybe nickels in these economic times) and set them to your left.

Go through your page of writing and see where you might make one small improvement of language, pacing, dialogue, etc.

When you make a change for the better, take a coin from your stack and place it in a new stack to your right.

Try to get all ten coins into the right-hand stack.You are likely to have a well-polished piece of writing.