Improving your writing is often a matter of paying attention to what you’re actually doing. Clear communication takes practice and presence.
Here are 10 things you can do to improve the writing your working on now; practice these and your writing will get better.
- Get moving. Mary Jaksch, a Zen Master and writer wrote How to Lift Your Writing to new Heights – in Just 10 Minutes at Write To Done, reminds us that our bodies need to move. A stretching session before or in the middle of your writing can kick your brain into gear. Just standing up, moving a way from your computer, and reaching for the sky, then your toes can spark ideas. (Yes, it was her list that inspired my list.)
- What’s your purpose? Create a 10 word purpose for your article or even your book. That kind of clarity works wonders.
- Who is your reader? Every writing project has an ideal reader – it’s worth knowing who this person is.
- Make a list of what must be included. It’s amazing how a simple list of the items you want to include can help organize and stimulate your thoughts. Short pieces need only a few items. The list for a book is obviously longer.
- Order the list. Once you’ve got your list, bring some order to it. A short list will be easy, longer lists take a bit more effort. Do this quickly knowing the items and the order may change as you write.
- Draft quickly. Using your list, write your rough draft quickly. Don’t get stopped trying to find the perfect word or phrase, not now. A rough draft may take anywhere from a few minutes to months, depending on the length and difficulty of the manuscript. Keep forging ahead. The editing will come later.
- Rewrite/edit slowly. Rewriting and editing is where you make your manuscript sing. Now you can spend a reasonable amount of time looking for that perfection you denied yourself in the drafting phase. You still want to move ahead, but taking your time means you can really polish your writing.
- Read out loud. One of the secrets of professional writers is they often read their work out loud as part of the editing process. Somehow the ear will hear what the eye won’t see, particularly since you’re by this time throughly familiar with the work.
- Let it rest at least overnight. Letting your writing rest at least overnight will give you some distance so you can see the work as it actually is. A couple of days or a week is even better.
- Final edit – and let it go. Do your final edit and let it go. Send it off to the client or the publication or post it on your blog or wherever it’s to go. It’s so easy to get trapped in a search for perfection – a perfection you can’t define and, if your like me, wouldn’t recognize even if it knocked on the door and introduced itself.
Good writing can be learned and one of the best ways to learn it is by writing and writing and writing. When you bring your full attention to the writing you do, as in these tips, improved writing is almost automatic.
What would you add to this list?
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