7 Tips, Besides “Write, Write, Write,” to Become a Better Writer

image by Prawny
image by Prawny

Most writers have heard they must read, write, and rewrite often to become a better writer. True, but here are other tips to improve our writing.

  1. Subscribe to a writers’ magazine.

    I find the articles in Writer’s Digest supply fresh ideas and writing techniques. When I try them, I improve my writing.

  1. Obtain at least one critique partner.

    My partner combs my manuscript for what doesn’t work. Her comments make me rethink what I wrote. When I critique her manuscript and question something, I ask myself why what she wrote doesn’t work. Sometimes I dig into my writing references to look up the answer. From either side of the process, I learn much.

  1. image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images
    image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

    Join a writer’s group.

    The encouragement and fellowship helps to keep us writing. During our discussions, we absorb what others have studied and shared. I’ve learned about writing trends, helpful resources, audiences, genres, and techniques. Some groups perform critiques during meetings.

  1. Attend conferences.

    For most conferences, potential workshop leaders must submit proposals and outlines of what they’ll present. Therefore, this screening usually produces workshops whose content is well thought out and worthwhile to writers. This has been my experience.

  1. Be a mentor.

    To me, mentoring someone is a big responsibility. I don’t want to lead my mentee astray, so I do my homework before I provide help, which hones my own skills.

  1. Write blog posts on writing.

    While helping other writers, researching and producing such posts helps me understand and remember the techniques and principles better. And in my archives, I have easy access to what I’ve selected as important to know.

image by bykst
image by bykst
  1. Lead a workshop.

    I started leading workshops in my writers’ group. Preparing writing examples for what I presented stretched me to come up with ones that truly showed the technique. Later, I applied to lead workshops for a conference. The prep work for the workshops helps embed in my memory what I present.

These tips will grow you as a writer. They’ll help you learn writing techniques, principles, and style. But the work involved also helps you own what you learn.

7 Tips to become a better writer that are in addition to “read, write, and rewrite.” Click to tweet.

Which of these tips, or other tips, have you tried and found the most helpful?

How to Make Your Idea Shine in 3 Steps

“Creativity takes planning in multiple iterations.” —Beth Comstock

 Sky at Sunset

We have an idea for an activity or a writing project. We capture the idea and move to the next idea in our project. Then we wonder why the audience didn’t engage during our presentation. Why editors rejected our article or manuscript. Why children yawned during the learning activity.

We can significantly improve each idea if we follow the Blah to Shine method:

Step 1: Blah – idea is lousy to good.

Step 2: Warm – idea is getting warmer.

Step 3: Shine – idea requires sunglasses.

MP900255308When we paint a room, we make a mess first. We move furniture, and bring in paint, drop cloths, and ladders. Although remodelers expect it in the beginning of a project, few of our visitors enjoy our room. Next, we cover the walls in paint. Then we put away the paint, vacuum the carpet, replace the furniture, and put a vase of flowers on the table. Our room is fresh and inviting. This is the essence of the Blah to Shine method.

Step 1. Expect blah. Even if your first pass idea turns out to be stellar, expect it to rank good at best. That way you aren’t tempted to accept ideas on autopilot.

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Step 2. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What would make my idea better?
  • Is my idea appropriate for my audience?
  • Is my idea vague? What would sharpen it?
  • Does my idea fit with the rest of my project?

Now replace the blah idea with the getting-warmer idea your answers generated. Expect this idea to be better but not the best (even if it is). Make a habit of moving to Step 3.

Step 3. Use easily available resources to spawn a better idea. We have scads of resources we can access in seconds.

  • For a better word: thesaurus and dictionary on the toolbar.
  • For information on almost everything: Google Search.
  • For specifics: the how-to book gathering dust on the home office shelf.
  • For activity ideas: Sunday school teacher’s aid, Bible Study Fellowship’s children’s manual, or other helps issued to leaders or volunteers.
  • Close up of a hamsterFor sounding boards: critique partner, co-leader, or Yahoo interest group.
  • For guinea pigs: spouse, 4-year-old, know-it-all teen, or neighbor.
  • For inspiration: prayer. 

All these resources can spark the improvement that moves your warm idea to one that shines.

***

Example: Let’s suppose a writer in 1900 uses the Blah to Shine method.

In Step 1 he writes: The bully shook his fist. “I’m going to beat you up.”

The writer has a workable line. How could he make it better? Is “up” vague? What would better show his audience what the bully plans to do?

BullyIn Step 2 he writes: The bully shook his fist. “I’m going to break every bone in your body.”

This threat is more specific. But in 1900 it may have already been a cliché. Readers want something fresh. How could he make it snappier?

In Step 3 he writes: The bully shook his fist. “You’re dead meat.”

The phrase “dead meat” goes back to 1849 in Emerson Bennett’s Leni-Leoti. However, our 1900 writer remembers a H. L. Williams book he read in 1865 about a man facing such a threat. He blows dust off Joaquin, the Claude Duval of California and finds, “Drop your belts on the ground, or you’re dead meat!” As Williams did, he borrows the phrase, and it works!

I didn’t find “dead meat” on the cliché lists I googled, but today its overuse may throw it into Step 2, a warm idea.

What methods do you use to make your ideas shine?

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