Dozens of Quick Tips for Writers

Following are a number of brief ideas to (hopefully) make you a better writer.

  • Write with a purpose or goal—Why are you writing this work? Do you have a message you want to share? Do you want to teach something? Do you have a story to tell? Knowing the answer to these questions will allow you to know if/when you’ve succeeded.
  • Dream big, but plan realistically—Be bold in your possibilities, but stay grounded by having a relatively detailed plan of attack for writing your work.
  • Know who you’re writing for—Who do you want to read your work? Or are you writing for the personal satisfaction of getting something down on paper? Which will give you more satisfaction, writing the book or selling thousands of copies?
  • Learn how to write—That may mean taking classes, joining a writing group, finding a writing coach, etc.
  • Read widely, and with discernment—Read both fiction and non-fiction. Learn what appeals to you in the styles of other writers. But don’t copy. Develop you own style.
  • Write something fresh—Books that sell usually are not a re-hash of a subject. Take the time to put an original twist on a storyline or topic.
  • Be unique—But not so outlandish that no one will touch your work.
  • Practice writing—Write anything, but make writing a regular discipline. Whatever you write, however short, have someone look it over. Then, listen to their comments.
  • Look for criticism—Find one or a few people who will read your work and give you some honest feedback. Then, implement the most helpful suggestions. Remember that not everyone will like your work. Be willing to change a word, a sentence, some action, even a chapter.
  • Ask questions—Don’t work in the dark. If you don’t know something, ask other writers, editors, or anyone you think may have some answers. Do some personal research.
  • Write constantly and consistently—Whether you feel good, bad, or anywhere in between. Set aside the days, the time of day, and the specific amount of time you’re going to spend writing. Writing every once-in-a-while is not the mark of a professional; it’s the mark of a an amateur or a diarist. Spend more time writing than talking about writing. Push yourself. Challenge your limits. Reward your successes.
  • Learn how to self-edit—Before letting anyone else see your work, put it aside for a few weeks. Then read it slowly and carefully, with the eyes of a potential buyer/reader.
  • Change something when it doesn’t work—If you find yourself stuck at some point, take a writing break. Do something else that occupies your time, whether it’s mindful or mindless. Then go back to your work with fresh eyes and a refreshed brain. You’ll usually spot the problem right off and see a way to fix it.
  • Rewrite—Many of the best-known books were re-written up to five or six times. Take the time to get it right. However, this is no place for perfectionism. At some point, you have to let go and let someone else read your work.
  • Finish that manuscript—Just because Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony became a classic does not mean that your unfinished work will also. Before you start writing, you need to set a target finish date—and honor it.
  • Write to serve the work and not your ego—While you may have the expertise to share, remember that someone reading your work wants to learn or experience something. Unless you’re writing an autobiography, this work is not about you.
  • Submit your work—To an agent or to a publisher. Don’t be afraid of the reviewer. That’s when you’ll find out just how good your work is.
  • Deliver on your promise—When you write, you implicitly or explicitly make a promise to readers—they’ll learn something, learn “who-done-it”, or the like. At the end of your work, make sure you honor your promise.
  • Teach others what you know—One of the best ways to keep learning is to share your current knowledge. Having to answers others’ questions will sometimes force you to do research and expand your knowledge base.
  • Understand that being published once does not guarantee a long and successful writing career—History is filled with one-hit performers, in lots of fields.
  • Shake up your writing—Change your style, genre, subject matter, point-of-view, or the time you prefer to write about. This will push your talent and cause you to have learn some new things. It’s a great way to make yourself a broader, more well-versed writer.
  • Refuse to quit—Richard Bach, author of the Jonathan Livingston Seagull books, said that “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” That’s sage advice. But don’t rush to quit the job that pays the bills.
  • Realize that you might not be a writer—This is a tough one. Many people write, but not everyone is an author. It takes someone with a gift for using words and for telling a story (fiction or non-fiction) that’s targeted and well-received by a specific audience.

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