Back in October I shared 5 Tips to Improve Your Writing, and since so many of us God-sized Dreamers have dreams that include writing, I thought I’d give you 5 more tips.
Read Your Copy Out Loud – I promise you, if you do this one simple thing before you hit publish, your writing will improve. When we read in our heads, we tend to fill in blanks where a word is missing or even transpose a word or letter automatically. Reading out loud helps you pick up on typos, missing words, and clumsy sentences.
Exercise: Slow down. Read your story or article out loud. Do you trip over any words? Is there one sentence that is so long you’ve run out of breath at the end of it? Could this sentence be broken into two? Is your writing clear and concise? Are you stumbling over a sentence? How about those prepositions at the end of your sentences (at, of, for)? While it is acceptable nowadays to leave prepositions hanging…you should at least know you’ve done so and make a conscious decision to leave it in or take it out.
- Avoid Vague Words – These are words that don’t express much of anything. They are vague, boring, and overused. Here are some examples: some, interesting, favorite, important, finally, very, great. When you use these words, you are not painting a clear picture. Oftentimes, you are using unnecessary words that end up as filler, adding little to your story.
Exercise: Read through a blog post or article you’ve written and look for words you’ve included from the sample list above. Replace them with descriptive vibrant language and watch your copy come to life on the page. Instead of interesting, use a descriptive word, or a few, that more specifically define your experience.
- The book was interesting.
- The book was hilarious, insightful, life-changing,
- I was very hungry!
- I was famished.
- Write Tight – Even with esoteric and creative writing, sentences and descriptions that go on and on can bore our readers and leave them confused…unable to follow your storyline. Writing tight means we’ve got a clear central message, our copy supports that message without going off on a tangent, we aren’t adding unnecessary information, and we aren’t repeating ourselves.
Exercise: Try reading one of your favorite pieces of your copy – a story, blog post, article. And ask yourself: Is my one central point clear? Have I supported that point? Did I go off topic? Is there any information I could eliminate? Did I repeat myself?
- Show Don’t Tell – Have you ever had the experience of reading a book that takes you away? A well-written book can literally transport you to a garden, on the frontlines, to a castle, to a village in Calcutta. That’s showing. Showing requires you to bring your characters and scenes to life with specific details and clearly painted images and the use of similes, metaphors and vivid verbs.
Here’s an example of telling:
About 12 years ago, my family and I set out on a 40-day trip across the country. We stopped along the way at major landmarks, which made the trip so interesting.
Here’s the same information, using tools of showing:
On July 5, 2002, we buzzed with excitement as we set out on a cross-country adventure of a lifetime. The mini-van was filled to bursting with pillows, coloring books, stories on tape, a few favorite outfits for each of us—my husband and I, plus three daughters, ages 13, 11, and 6. Off we went…the breathtaking majesty of the Grand Canyon, rich red clay formations of the Badlands, the predictable glory of the Old Faithful Geyser beckoned.
Now your turn…
Exercise: Try your hand at showing using these telling sentences.
- I went on a trip to Thailand. The people are different and fascinating. I learned a lot about their culture.
- Ice cream is one of my very favorite foods. I tend to go for an ice cream sundae with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge.
- Recently, I was invited to go bungee jumping. I was so scared. To my surprise, I did it!
- Don’t Assume – While we’re aiming for writing tight, we also don’t want to leave holes in our copy. We have to be sure to include the basic elements of Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How, even if we’re writing a first-person narrative. We can weave these elements into our story so our readers aren’t left wondering.
Exercise: Use this simple handy worksheet to make sure your story includes the basic five Ws and How. http://www.studenthandouts.com/3web/fivewsandhow.pdf
The best way to do that is write, write, write. These tips can keep us on our writing toes! Let me know if you have any writing questions and I’ll try to answer. I’d love to hear your writing tips too. Please share in the comments.
Shared by Elise Daly Parker.