Being a writer can be tricky, especially when you’re starting out in a writing career. Do you feel like a fraud when you write? Worried it isn’t good enough? Concerned your writing sucks? You’re not alone. So many aspiring writers feel the same.
But fear not, my brilliant one! I gotchu!
If you’re looking to write with flair, these juicy tips are for you. Whether you’re pointing your pen at an article, starting out fiction writing, getting into creative writing, or just wanna make your own writing stand out on social media, following these simple pointers will help.
From keeping your sentences simple to creating characters that jump off the page, read on for 101 quick and easy ways to boost your writing game! Well maybe not 101, but certainly enough to make being a writer easier!
Table of contents:
- 1. Begin with the outline
- 2. Make the headings werk bitch
- 3. Use bullets effectively
- 4. Choose simple words over complex ones
- 5. Scrap the fluff words
- 6. Be detailed and specific
- 7. Pass on the passive
- 8. Write short sentences
- 9. And keep paragraphs short too
- 10. Don’t ramble and repeat
- 11. Know your audience
- 12. Don’t overthink it
- 13. Unblock the block
- 14. Edit and edit again
- 15. Practice makes perfect
- 16. Read, and read some more
- 17. Surround yourself with other writers
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1. Begin with the outline
Your outline is the backbone of your article. Once you have the outline in place, it’s so much easier to quickly jot down more ideas, facts, research studies, etc., under the appropriate subheading.
Don’t be afraid of being messy!
Cram in everything you can think of into each H2 and H3. That way, you’ll have something to spark your ingenuity when you get there.
Plus, with the outline in position, you know the angle and direction you’ll need to take so you don’t get lost rambling through the content countryside. Writing sucks without a clear trajectory. Haha, I mean direction! See point 3.
2. Make the headings werk bitch
If you’re planning on becoming a copywriter, you’ll soon get to hear about the father of copywriting, David Ogilvy. In what’s probably his most famous quote, he stated, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
In other words, make your headlines work for you. They need to grab attention and encourage people to continue reading. So, even though the big DO was specifically talking about advertising, in this case, it works across all forms of the written word.
Think about a newspaper or magazine. What is it that makes you pick a specific article to read? Think about that when you’re writing your own.
3. Use bullets effectively
I love a good bullet point. Why?
Well, they’re ideal for making lists (duh), and:
- Makes reading easier, especially scanning
- Highlights key points and breaks up the text
- Indicates the order you want the reader to follow
- Helps readers remember sections and pick out exactly what you’re saying
4. Choose simple words over complex ones
You’ve likely read something that has you reaching for the dictionary after one sentence — frustrating right? Turns out it’s not just you.
Writers who use unnecessarily long words in their work are seen as less clever than those who stick to simple ones. Yep. A study from Princeton University said so.
When you’re a freelance writer, you’re writing for others. Trying to impress readers by forcing them to search through a thesaurus may have the opposite effect.
The research is rather fabulously titled: Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: problems with using long words needlessly! And no, I’m not joking!
It found that folks tend to rate the intelligence of writers who wrote in simpler language, using an easy to read font, as higher than those who got carried away with big ‘ole words.
Yes, learning new words is good for the noggin and can add flavour, nuance, and pizzazz, but don’t use them needlessly.
Make these swapsies:
- Replace utilize with use, unless you’re using them correctly!*
- Close proximity with near
- Facilitate with help
- Commence with start
Mind you, big words have their place and can read well if you use them to punctuate a bunch of smaller ones. But, use them wisely!
* And WTF do I mean by that?! Well, utilize means to use something in a different way than it was intended. For example:
“I use my wok to cook with, but utilized it as a weapon one particularly exciting evening.”
5. Scrap the fluff words
Some words add buggar-all meaning to your sentences, and they make your writing look crappy. We’re talking very, actually, really, little, and rather, and some other culprits
I actually really dislike fluff words because they are of very little use, rather distracting, and don’t actually contain anything useful.
Your writing should be tight and concise. Every word should have a role, and if it doesn’t, scrap it.
Unless of course, you’re writing short stories or other form of non-fiction. Descriptive prose actually has a place there.
6. Generic writing sucks so be detailed and specific
Details make a piece. When you add descriptions, the reader paints a picture in their mind, making it more real.
Think about these examples:
- I bought a new car
- I bought a classic 1976 cherry red Chevrolet Corvette with banana yellow, leather interior, and rearing stallion art on the bonnet.
Which of these helps you picture the car in your mind? Which makes your writing more interesting? Consider being more descriptive in the writing process.
7. Pass on the passive when you’re being a writer
Passive writing sounds like this: He was woken up by the sound of his alarm. He was dragged out of bed by the blaring beep. (Urgh, shudder. Thankfully, when you’re your own boss, you can opt to avoid this nasty awakening!)
Sorry I digress!
So, in the example above, who’s doing what to whom? Passive writing makes it seem like you’re saying things happened independently, without any real agent causing them to happen.
Instead, use active voice to give sentences life: The alarm went off, and he jumped out of bed. Who’s doing what to whom? The alarm’s making a sound, and he’s jumping. Poor fucker!
In other words, use subjects and verbs to convey action rather than the objects of the sentence. In English, stick to the SVO order — subject, verb, object.
That said, sometimes passive voice just makes sense. There’s one publication I write for, and they prefer you to exclude passive voice entirely, which can lead to some pretty clunky sentences.
8. Write short sentences
Short sentences are easier to read than long ones. There’s less word clutter, so the information is clearer. They also create a flow that can help you write more fluidly.
The general rule of thumb is that each sentence should have one thought or idea. When you try and jam in more, it creates unnecessary complexity and can confuse the reader.
9. And keep paragraphs short too
Short paragraphs also make reading easier by breaking up the information into small, delicious chunks.
Now, in academic writing, a paragraph is designed to contain one idea and multiple sentences. But in your typical writing, the style is more casual, and paragraphs can be as short as you like. Yep. A paragraph can be a single sentence or even one singular word.
You can divide paragraphs to provide further emphasis and follow the natural rhythm of speech.
10. Don’t ramble and repeat
When I look over a new writer’s work, this is a biggie. Rambling, not going to the point, and repeating the same ideas several times throughout an article.
Apart from the intro and conclusion, you don’t need to say something more than once. Make your point and put it to bed. Otherwise, that’s where your readers will be heading.
11. Know your audience
Make sure you choose the right words to fit your audience. For example, if I were writing an article for a nursing home, then I wouldn’t use slang like “playa hater.” Instead, I would opt for a more familiar language like “ignorant, critical person.”
So instead of “With your new mobility scooter, you can ignore all the playa haters.”
I’d go for “With your new top-of-the-range mobility scooter, you can ignore the critics and get to bingo in half the time.”
Knowing and understanding your audience is the key to writing material that resonates with them.
12. Don’t overthink it
Overthinking is such an easy trap to fall into. I used to find introductions particularly tricky and would write, rewrite, and rewrite over and over again in an attempt to reach perfection. I’d read tons of other articles on the same subject matter, think about how perfect their introductions were, and then tie myself in knots.
Don’t let anyone else’s writing make you feel bad about yours!
And once you’re happy with the words on the screen, they read well and make sense — you’re good to go.
13. Unblock the block
If you’re experiencing a spot of writer’s block, I find it helps to choose the easiest part to write and start there. Or, write something different entirely that you find more inviting.
Some writers have a process and particular order they write in, whereas for me, it depends on the article, and I often begin with the easiest subheading. It gets you into the rhythm, and it’s always encouraging when you see the words flowing onto the screen.
But there’s a few other ways to combat writer’s block. Sometimes taking a break helps so get up and walk around, do some stretches, or just step away from your computer for a few minutes. This can help clear your head and give you a fresh perspective on how to approach your writing.
And seeing as a change is as good as a holiday, or so they say, try changing your work environment. Maybe work in a different room or go out to a cafe. Although that’s no so helpful if you’re using a desktop!
The main thing with writer’s block is to shake it up and don’t sit there staring at the blank screen. That’ll make you feel crappy and uninspired.
14. Edit and edit again
My top tip is to write one day and then leave that puppy alone until the following day or later. When you read in haste after writing something, you’re not giving your mind a chance to reset. Looking at your work with a fresh pair of eyes can help you decide what’s working and what needs shortening, deleting, or rewriting.
Here’s my process:
- Write the article in full.
- Forget about it for 24 hours or more.
- Return and proofread.
- Make a copy, so you have two versions.
- Edit ruthlessly on one version, safe in the knowledge you’ve still got the original to refer to if you change your mind.
And yes, I know about version control, but I find it easier and quicker to do it this way. You can also make multiple versions and edit them slightly differently, then return to them and see which works best.
15. Practice makes perfect
Yes, it’s trite. But it’s also true.
Fast and effective writing skills won’t land on your lap overnight, so you need to hone them to a fine art by writing regularly. If that sounds like grief, remember that highly skilled writing is where the big bucks lurk, and time is money, so the faster you write, the more you earn. Win win.
You’ll need to practice your writing consistently to make the grade and become a good writer. Yes, there are naturally gifted writers, but everyone needs to polish their skills to stay ahead of the curve and earn a place as an in-demand writer.
Try starting your own blog and committing to writing a certain amount each week or even write everyday. If you haven’t heard of Medium, look into it. It’s a fab platform for self-publishing and getting your name out there. And, you’ll become a better writer.
By practicing your craft and learning how to overcome writer’s block, you’ll become a more efficient writer. Plus, it’ll help you get more comfy with the different aspects of writing, like grammar, punctuation, and style.
And the best way to practice? Simply by writing.
Remember that becoming a writer is a process. Even Stephen King had to start somewhere!
16. Read, and read some more!
Being a reader helps with being a writer. In other words, read a lot. Not only do you learn how to craft effective sentences and paragraphs, but you’ll also get a sense of the different styles and genres that exist.
And don’t just choose the type of stuff you enjoy reading. Challenge yourself and read words from famous writers, serious writers, and other writers than your typical choices.
Read widely and critically, meaning that you break down the writing and analyze it. See if you can identify the different elements that make up a good piece. As you read, ask yourself questions about the writing: What works? What doesn’t work? Why? What makes this a great article? Or why does it suck?
Take notice of the title. Did it grab your attention? What about the hook at the start of the introduction? There’s so much to learn from other professional writers. This takes practice, but the more you do it, the better you’ll become at analyzing and understanding writing.
So, if you’re serious about being a writer, and a good one that can command high fees, start by developing the habit of reading critically, and then gradually start working on incorporating the bits and bobs that you’ve learned into your own writing.
Plus, reading extends your vocabulary. You’ll be surprised at some of the fancy new words you learn, and it’s particularly easy if you have an e-reader with a built-in thesaurus and dictionary. And, the more words you know, the better your writing will be.
17. Surround yourself with other writers
Attend workshops, writer’s groups, and my personal fave, online communities, and forums. Seriously, you need other writers and a solid writing community, especially when you start writing and it’s all new and scary.
It can be really helpful to get constructive feedback from others, and you’ll also learn a lot about freelance writing and what it takes to get decent writing jobs. Plus, you never know who you’ll meet and make connections with.
You get feedback on your work, develop relationships with other writers, and get that all-important motivation.
Client doing your head in? Have a rant in the group. Confused about contracts? Ask for advice. Clueless about what to charge? Yep, consult the hive mind.
If you want all the love and support, join the Easy Freelance Writing Facebook group. Come on in!
What are your top writing tips?
What d’ya think? What are your fave writing tips? Or what tips have you heard that are absolute bullshit? Let me know your answers in the comments!
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