(Editor’s Note: This article is a follow-up to a recent piece by WorkAwesome contributor Carl Natale – an article that garnered quite a few comments.)
When I listed tips that can help you improve your writing, I wanted to make writing accessible to people who don’t have much confidence in their writing ability.
But even accomplished writers can use some help. No matter what your skill level, you can improve. The good news is that there is no shortage of advice for improving your writer. After all, writers love to write about writing.
What follows is a collection of blog entries that tackle writing as a craft and offer tips for improvement. No matter how comfortable you are with writing or prolific, you can find something that will help you here.
Keep your pants on because this headline is a bit of a tease. Literally. Barrie Davenport prescribes a type of mental Viagra to get the creative juices flowing. And we’re going to stop the sexual metaphor right there. Because there some potential images we just don’t want to evoke. But his 17 tips focus on finding inspiration to write something. He has some good ideas worth trying.
My favorite is very “unsexy.” If you have a topic but are unsure how to work it, create an outline. No one will see it but you. So there’s no harm in just writing phrases or points relating to the topic. This is where index cards come in handy. As you create points you can reorganize them or toss them out easily.
The outline becomes a frame for what you want to write. It will be much easier to fill in the words and finish now you took this step.
OK, if the sex metaphor isn’t doing it for you, Jon Morrows has 10 tips you can do with your pants on. For the most part his tips involve consuming other medium for ideas. These are very practical, good ideas. Although not the final word. He does follow it up with 10 more sources of inspiration.
I go looking for complaints. Complaints are signs of people’s problems. If they care enough to complain, I might be able to put together enough words to help them solve their problems. Twitter and Facebook are gold mines loaded with problems and complaints.
Ali Hale recognizes that all writers – even her – have room to improve. It boils down to three basics:
- Write As Regularly as Possible
- Focus on One Genre of Writing
- Read Great Writing
This isn’t quick fix kind of stuff. It’s an investment that takes some time. If you’re short on that, she a 10-minute exercise that you can do daily.
Jessica Howard focuses on how to write a tutorial that goes on your blog. But tutorial writing isn’t just for bloggers. At some point we’re all going to have to write about how to do something. So advice on identifying your audience and avoiding jargon will serve you well. It may be an informal e-mail to the coworker covering you while you’re on vacation or the client who hired you set up a Website.
There are two things worth remembering. One, we’re very visual. Photos of the end product, materials and processes help illustrate what needs to be done. The images also reinforce the steps in our memories.
Two, test it on someone. You know what you meant. But does the reader? It’s easy to skip over information that we know intimately. It may seem too basic to need mentioning.
This is kind of a guilty pleasure. Who doesn’t want to be be paid to be a reviewer? You get to sample music, movies, restaurants and all kinds of gear. It may not make you rich but it has a certain cache.
Stephen Regenold writes gear columns for newspapers and offers 8 tips for reviewing packs, outerwear, tents and such. There are some basic tenets that apply to writing all kinds of reviews. Like you’re not to write ad copy. Again, photos help but jargon doesn’t.
I know I recommended not worrying about grammar so much. But it’s worth recognizing there are some basics you need to master – such as when to use “who” instead of “whom” or “that.” Note that Ann Handley’s list here is not universal. Other people have their pet peeves.
It’s worth reading the comments to pick up more grammar tips and get an idea when you can follow my advice. And thanks to the comments, I learned about the Grammar Girl Quick & Dirty Tips podcast. If you’re going to break some rules, you should know about them before deciding your style can do without them.
By no means is this list exhaustive. There are a lot of resources and blogs with tips. Where do you find great advice on writing?