Thursday, February 21, 2013

Finding Ways to Improve my Writing

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

Although I've been writing professionally for about 15 years now, I've had a pen and journal in hand since I first learned to write.  Even before I could write anything that made sense, I still jotted down words, made lists, and even pretended I was a reporter because writing and taking notes made me feel important and empowered.

Today, I still feel empowered when I am able to take any thought at all and bring it to life on paper.  Depending on my mood, and how creative I'm feeling there are times when my fingers can't keep up with the ideas flowing from my mind.  There's nothing more exhilarating than writing non stop for hours without any blocks or  limitations, regardless of the finished product.

On the other hand, there are also plenty of times that I've sat with my laptop and written for hours and when I do review my efforts, I can't believe I was capable of writing such drivel.  

I believe in myself and feel that my passion will guide my writing career down a healthy and inspired path, but I also realize I still have a lot to learn so I need to be open and receptive to learning how to improve my craft.

Here are 5 tips that I gathered from various writing sources that I am using to guide me in my quest to continually improve my writing so that I can grow and challenge myself along the way.

#1.   Read everything aloud
Read your writing aloud in a natural conversational tone.  By reading what you've written at the same pace as if you were talking to someone, you will spot mistakes, stiff areas, awkward sentences, or weak-sounding words right away.
In 2013 I  have vowed to improve my  writing skills, including making the time to read more.

#2.  Write Now, Edit Later
Many times, your own worst critic—in writing and in life—is you. So, when you’re writing, it’s really important not to judge what you write down, at least at first. Even experienced writers don’t often crank out a perfect first draft, so setting your expectations too high from the outset is unrealistic (not to mention discouraging).
A good exercise in nonjudgmental writing is to set a timer for 10 minutes and just write. Write down what you know, what you feel, or whatever’s on your mind. Don’t try to write too carefully or too intelligently or too accurately. In fact, stop trying, period. Writing goes much better when you don’t work so hard at it or criticize your every word.
#3.  Just Write
The more you do it, the better.  I'm focusing on everything in my life that involves writing, including composing well-crafted emails and clever facebook statuses.
I read a great tip about making a game of it. At the beginning of every day, pick two or three words you want to use that day. Write them on post-it’s and stick them on the wall in front of you, and find a way to use them in your writing that day.  Whatever I can do to sneak more writing into my day, I'm going to find it.
#4.  Be concise
This is the classic “use one word instead of two” advice. Tight language is easier to read and will move the reader along more quickly. This is one area that I constantly strive to improve!
#5.  Get your tools and resources in order
Writers don’t need a lot of tools, but they definitely need something to write with, whether it’s a fancy computer or a great pad of paper and a favorite pen. Make sure you have any necessary resources on hand too, like dictionaries, grammar and style books, and a few of your favorite writing reference books.
For 2013, I made a promise to myself to read as much as possible.  I want to read for pleasure first not only because I enjoy getting lost in a good book, but there is so much I can learn by paying attention to my favorite authors' styles.  I also have plenty of inspiring "writer's reference" books easily accessible in my writer's crate so that I can continue to learn from the masters.
What has helped you become better at what you do? Share in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Like you, I am my own hardest critic; however, taking a writing workshop and being criticized by others was both exhilarating and humbling. It helped me to look at my work through different lenses.

    Your tips are common sense, basic tools for any writer. It's nice to see I'm on the right path. Thanks.