Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Ten Tips for Becoming a Better Writer
By OFW editor:
Published: September 08, 2013
You’re always trying to improve. You want to write good shit so that readers will be all, “Hey, that girl writes good shit.” I want that too, so I really listen to the buckets full of advice tossed out at me each day. Sometimes I pocket the tips away for later, other times I let them breeze by on their way to someone who buys that kind of garbage. Here are a few I’ve kept because they really have improved my writing.
1. Periods are your friend.
So are commas, quotes, and all that punctuation stuff. Punctuation is there to help you, not to be a pain in your ass. Yes, it’s hard to learn and it’s boring as hell. Suck it up and just learn the basics. Pay special attention to how you use commas and periods. You see, these regulate the flow of the text, if you use too many. It becomes confusing and sometimes dizzying and reading should never, ever, give your reader a headache. Or make her pass out.
2. Just write the damn story.
Writing and editing are two separate processes that use different sides of your brain. Editing while you’re creating is like, trying to walk backward and forward at the same time. You’ll only succeed in standing still.
3. Do it every day.
. Well, if you’re able to do that, more power to you, but write before or after as well. Try to write for at least 30 minutes each day, longer if you’re lucky enough to have that kind of time. It doesn’t matter what you write. Experiment, goof around, edit. Just do something that pertains to writing each day. The more you do this, the more you become familiar with your style and voice. Even if you feel like you’re getting nowhere, you’re still practicing and learning.
4. Accept that you will never know everything.
You could learn all of the rules of good writing, and you will if you keep at it long enough. As soon as you do that, you’ll have to go about learning how and when to break them. And then there’ll be more rules by that time, so back you go to the learning new shit again, and then you’ll be all “Oh, well I think this rule could be bent just a little.” My point is, you’ll never know anything. Buckle in. Get a snack. A writer never stops learning.
5. Read. Read. Read.
I should have put this one first because the first step to being a good writer is to be an avid reader. It just makes sense.
6. Don’t trust Word.
Spell-check is a fickle bitch that should never be relied upon. Regardless of what she says, always read your work line by line to make sure she hasn’t missed something. And let me tell you, that bitch always misses something.
7. If you ask for it, you shall receive.
Yes, you want feedback, but remember that when you ask for critique, that is what you shall receive. Learn to take criticism. Don’t get your panties in a bunch if someone’s critique is harsh or unfair. Don’t go all diva because you think it’s wrong. Just suck it up, say thank you, and skulk off into the corner to lick your wounds. Once you’ve recovered, seriously think about the criticism offered. I’ve found the angrier or more hurt I am by a criticism, the more right it is. Can you be more right? Of course you can.
8. Thesauruses aren’t bad.
I know what Mr. King said, but some folks need a thesaurus until they expand their vocabulary enough to stop repeating words every damn paragraph. (cough—FSOG) You shouldn’t have to use one like, hourly, but a thesaurus can be pretty handy when you’re rewriting. Just make sure you understand the meaning of the word and its proper usage. That is important. Don’t just use any synonym and expect it to make sense. English is a funny language you know.
9. Listen to yourself.
Nothing brings out the awful like reading your work out loud.
10. Don’t listen to advice just because it’s given.
Not every piece of advice will fit every situation and every writer. Except the punctuation one. That one is kind of fixed. So is spelling. You have to spell shit properly. Other than that, it doesn’t matter if the person giving the advice has sold a bazillion books, or a bunch of degrees coming out his ass, don’t blindly follow anyone’s advice. Go with your gut. Unless you have very poor intuitive skills. In that case, you need to hire a buddy to be your gut. If your gut buddy says it’s crap advice, trust him.
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