by Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh: President, Word Branch Media
Whether you are a pro, a novice or a wannabe, we all need reminders as to how to improve our writing. As you make your New Year’s resolutions, incorporate these ideas into your writing routine.
1. Write. Are you feeling a little cheated by this obvious tip? I’ve heard many would-be writers say that they have great ideas. Unless it’s on paper (or on a hard drive), it’s not writing.
2. Read every day. Not long ago I read about a study of the reading habits of journalism students. A majority didn’t think of themselves as readers—hmmmm. As Stephen Ambrose said, “There are many rules of good writing, but the best way to find them is to be a good reader.”
3. Write every day. Even if you are between projects, daily writing is the best way to keep your skills honed. Start a blog, write letters, keep a journal—whatever works for you.
4. Learn the basics of grammar. And don’t tell me that true art shouldn’t be constrained by rules. It’s why they call it a discipline.
5. Take a class. Whether your passion is creative writing or you want to sharpen your skills as a technical writer, an expert in the field can challenge you and lead you in new directions. Universities and community colleges often offer non-degree classes, and reputable online courses, like the ones offered by Writers’ Digest, are also an option.
6. Find a writing buddy. Sometimes releasing writing out into the public feels like sending a child out into the world. All sorts of insecurity and fears arise. Having a fellow writer or a trusted friend to bounce ideas and finished manuscripts off of can relieve some of the anxiety.
7. Set up creative scenarios to practice writing. For example, take a walk and pretend you are seeing everything for the first time or that you are a different person. How does that perspective change? Is it frightening or beautiful? Does the ordinary seem strange? Write a few pages or paragraphs about the experience. Creative Something has helpful ideas to promote creative thinking: http://www.creativesomething.net/
8. Keep up with writing and publishing trends. Writers’ Market not only has information for creative writers, but they also publish guides for most types of writing. Consider joining a professional organization for your particular genre to keep current.
9. On the other hand—don’t let fads and trends guide your topics or style. Remain true to your uniqueness.
10. Don’t be afraid to fail. We all fail at some point—Shakespeare has failed; Woolf has failed; Grisham has failed; I have failed. We have all had critics and some from unexpected places. But all writers have successes too. Feed your soul on the praise and learn from the criticism. Fear is the biggest stumbling block to your success as a writer—don’t let it stop you from becoming the best writer you can be.
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“Ten Tips to Improve Your Writing” by Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh
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