Forget About Being a Good Writer (And Do This Instead)
People often ask me what it takes to be a good writer. The short answer? I don’t know. The slightly longer answer? I don’t know, and I don’t care.
I am much less concerned with good writing than I am with effective writing. What’s the difference? One is based on opinion, and the other actually matters.
Everyone has their own idea of what it means to be a “good” writer. Opinions on quality vary, depending on who you ask, but effective writing is hard to argue with. It gets the job done — plain and simple.
So how do you write in a way that effectively communicates your message? Here are seven tips for more effective writing, which you can apply today:
Practice your craft
You can’t do something well unless you do it badly first — and that begins with practice. Most professionals recommend setting aside time (even if it’s only 20 minutes) to write each day. You can’t get better if you don’t show up.
I do this with my blog and other pieces I’m working on by writing daily a minimum of 500 words. The more I write, the more I learn about writing — and the more I realize I need to practice.
Write about topics that interest to you, but don’t forget to dabble in new stuff, as well. The more you stretch yourself, the more you grow. Never underestimate the importance of learning.
I try to learn something new every day by reading books, blogs, and magazines — unable go to bed until I’ve gleaned a few bits of wisdom from different sources.
Don’t model your writing after another writer. And if you do, do it only as a means of learning someone else’s technique, so that you can make it your own.
Ultimately, what you want is to discover your original writing voice. And frankly, that’s what your audience wants, too. If we wanted to read Hemingway, we would read Hemingway.
I still struggle with this, but I’m getting better. One technique I use is to read aloud to myself what I’ve just written, and if it doesn’t sound like me, I rewrite it.
Don’t write like an idiot
Learn the basics of grammar. Buy an MLA, APA, or another style book (I recommend the AP Stylebook to a lot of copywriters). Honor your craft and start writing like a pro. Learning the rules makes it easier to break them.
Most would-be writers begin in the wrong place. They begin by wanting to write a book. Don’t do that.
Start small, maybe with a blog or a journal (you know, Doogie Howser style). Then write a few articles for some magazines, and after that, consider a book. As you take one incremental step after another towards getting published, you’ll find that your confidence builds.
That’s been my experience, anyway. After four years of writing for websites and magazines, I was finally ready to write a book.
Don’t give up
If writing is your dream, treat it seriously. Stick with it, even after the passion fades. Write every day. Perseverance pays off. Most days, I don’t even want to write, but I show up, anyway. And something mystical happens; the Muse meets me, and inspiration happens when I least expect it.
Learn to pitch your pieces
Many writers expect to write something phenomenal and to be published immediately — you know, by osmosis and stuff. But before you write a piece, you should learn to pitch prospective publishers (book, magazine, or we).
A good pitch is short, compelling, and promising. Without learning how to effectively market your writing, even the best of writers can be overlooked.
What are some other tips for effective writing that I missed?