Your writing, like anything else, won’t improve unless you practice. Here are five writing tips to get your skills up to snuff in 2019.
1. Put on a disguise and be a different writer
If you’re sick of your own writing, take on a writing persona. Daniel Handler, better known for his Lemony Snicket novels, practiced his writing skills while torturing a local newspaper with fake, anger-fueled letters to the editor. In the following quote, he relays his antics to the student body of Miami University–as reported in The Miami Student, a university news blog:
“I would find the most harmless articles, and then I would compose … outraged letters to the editor regarding these articles. If an official announced that street cleaning schedules had changed, I would point out that the shift from Tuesdays to Fridays was probably rooted in anti-Semitism. It was a hobby.”
He always opened the letter with the phrase, How dare you! and signed off with his now infamous moniker, Lemony Snicket.
If this seems too far-fetched for you, take another route, write reviews on Yelp!, Amazon, iTunes, TripAdvisor, or anywhere you feel you have an opinion. You can be yourself, or not, but take the craft seriously and both spell and grammar check yourself. I recently found a Google reviewer who made a habit of leaving hilarious reviews and answering questions for various locations in our area. While reviewing a park he would write, To much grass. While reviewing a local river, To much water. I found these hysterical, but could not forgive his heinous error of using to instead of too.
2. Check yourself before you wreck yourself–use spell check and Grammarly
There’s no excuse for an abundance of spelling and grammar issues in the digital age. When you write something, do it in Word, Google Docs, or whatever writing program you fancy and pay attention to the red underlines. Don’t understand why you were flagged? Do some research. If you find yourself wondering things like, should I write out a number like fifteen or should I just type in 15? Go online and type that question into a search engine.
When I was learning how to write fiction, I would frequently find myself in the helpful arms of Grammar Girl. She has a plethora of good stuff explained in simple terms. I also use Grammarly which has a free browser extension.
3. Want your writing to look good? Get yourself some people
My group of writer friends came to the conclusion that we need our own army of people to help our writing look its best. It would be amazing to have your own assistant, a PR person, and a personal masseuse, but, all you really need is a decent editor, a reputable proofreader, and a handful of trust-worthy beta-readers who will tell you like it is. To always have your writing look its best, take the time to seek these individuals out.
4. Writing is lonely, make writer friends
Take a class on writing or maybe just start with a workshop. Consider joining your state or regional writing association. If you write in a certain genre, find a local or national chapter to join. Then, seek out people whom you enjoy and start your own writers group. Or, join a pre-existing writers group on this site.
Note: Not all writers groups are healthy and you might need to try a few before you find a good fit.
5. Try a writing sprint–dump it all out, then edit
Try writing on a time limit. Set a timer, and go! Do not stop to re-read, do not stop to go to the bathroom, check your social media, do laundry, answer a text. Just write and keep going. You can always go back and edit what you wrote at another time. Need motivation? Try typing in the hashtag #writingsprint into Twitter and see if anyone is looking for a sprint partner to keep you accountable. When the sprint time is over, report your word count. Even if you end up cutting half of it out, you still did a wonderful thing for yourself.
Now, get off the internet and get some writing done …