The Compulsive Reader: On Writing Well

Monday, March 5, 2012

On Writing Well

I am sharing my favorite writing tips in partnership with Grammarly grammar checker. Grammarly believes in the power of the written word and that everyone has the potential to be a superb writer. 

One question I receive a lot is "How do you write so many reviews?"

Answer: lots of practice. I've written over 600 reviews in the past 5 years ( in addition to discussion posts, Cover Talk, interviews, Shelf Discovery, etc), and while writing a review isn't always easy, it's a great way to build writing skills. No matter what sort of writing you're interested in--creative, academic, or writing for a blog--practice is key. The more you write, the more you'll improve.

Sometimes the hardest part about writing is getting started. Here are a few tips to get you going:

Write every day! This is probably the hardest thing to tackle, but it’s important. You have to be consistent with your practice. Every day I write either a blog post, a paper, a review, or work on my creative writing projects.

Take notes! Always having a piece of paper and a pen to write down thoughts is essential. I keep blank 3x5 notecards as bookmarks in every book I read so I can write down thoughts for reviews or papers. They're also helpful for little ideas or inspired lines you may have for your creative writing.

Outline! Even if it's just the vaguest idea of where you want to go, it's important to write it down so you know where you're going. Then keep it fluid so you can always change it as you go!

Give yourself a break! It's always good to take some time in between first drafts and revisions. I try to let at least a day go by between finishing a draft of a paper or review before I jump in on revisions. It allows me to have a fresh perspective on what I've written.

Read aloud! This sounds hokey, but nothing helps you catch little grammar mistakes and awkward-sounding sentences like taking the time to read it out loud. But you should probably avoid doing this in public...

Check the books! I'll admit it, I have trouble remembering the difference between "lay" and "lie." When you're not sure about your grammar, having a good writing reference book can really help out. I have the Hacker book--it's great for writing academic papers, it's well-organized, and it has a lot of practical writing advice that will solve all of your little grammar questions.

Have some fun! I love reading various writing blogs, like Reasoning With Vampires. It goes through the Twilight series page by page to point out faults in writing and plotting--it's actually all quite interesting and educational. It reinforces all of the grammar and punctuation concepts that you were taught in elementary school, but probably didn't pay attention to. And, if you’re interested in creative writing, it points out some plot pitfalls (like cheating at narration) that you probably weren’t aware even existed.

I know that these days our education system doesn’t put enough emphasis on the art of writing. It doesn’t matter what field you’re interested in going into or what you want to do with your life—writing is important on all levels. It’s never too late to work on improving your skills.

Do you have any writing advice? Share it in the comments!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post! It's great, practical advice :D
And you're right, it takes a lot of practice to write well!

As they say, "the artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without hard work." it applies to any sort of writing too!

Cecelia said...

The bit about reading your writing aloud is so key! I do that whenever I'm writing reviews in a hurry. It's amazing what you find to correct when you do that.

Mary Preston said...

That's an amazing number of reviews & so much reading. I found this very interesting thank you.

Annette Mills said...

Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. And then, proofread again. And, yes, practice makes you better. I still consider myself a novice, but when I go look at old posts, I can definitely see improvement. Great advice. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Another great way to work/improve and simply enjoy your writing is online Role play forums. I know that sounds tacky but its something I've been using for a while and it helps with writers block and creativity.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting read. Great to see a different perspective on writing well and the technques to get you there.

If you're interested, I also read a similar post titled 10 Secrets to Writing Well and Showcasing Your Work which I found handy as well.