I turned 32 this week, and the celebrations have left me struggling to return to work mode. As with most writing projects, the hardest part is starting. So, I’m kicking myself in the butt this morning to compile a list of writing and editing tips for you. In honour of my 32nd year, why not make it 32?
1.) Start writing. Allow yourself freedom to write whatever comes to your mind without over-thinking it. You can always edit later.
2.) Write every day.
3.) Read it out loud. Does it sound natural? Are the sentences too long? Try cutting out the awkward bits or shortening sentences for better flow.
4.) Pay attention to punctuation. Do semicolons freak you out? The Oatmeal has an excellent lesson for you.
5.) Enter writing contests. You’ll improve your writing and maybe even win something!
6.) Join a writer’s group. I recently started one in Vancouver. Our next meeting is May 9. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join us. UPDATE: I live in Toronto now so this group has died… anyone want to start a new one with me?
7.) Join writing discussion groups on LinkedIn. I belong to a copywriter’s group and get regular updates about best practices and industry trends.
8.) Join a Meetup group. Search Meetup.com for writing meetups in your area.
9.) Read more (I’m bad at this one).
10.) Folllow other writers on Twitter. I love following comedy writers for daily bits of funny in my twitter stream.
11.) Tweet more. It forces you to edit your message to the most concise version possible, sharpening your skills.
12.) Start a blog and challenge yourself to post regularly. It’s a great excuse to write everyday!
13.) Read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style–a classic yet brief book about how to write well.
14.) Remove as many adjectives as possible; they can cloud your point and interfere with story flow.
15.) Don’t be a human thesaurus. Say what you mean and use understandable words–it’s not a vocabulary contest.
16.) Show; don’t tell. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov
17.) Avoid clichés.
18.) Cut out unnecessary words. If they aren’t contributing to your story, they don’t belong there.
19.) Use the active voice whenever possible.
20.) Do something outside your comfort zone. Finding new ways to experience life will help you find new ways to write.
21.) Sign up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where writers commit to writing a 50,000-word novel in just one month.
22.) Don’t fall victim to commonly misused words.
23.) Eliminate distractions. Put your phone on silent. Sign out of Facebook. Close Hootsuite.
24.) Use tools that help you focus on your writing, like OmmWriter.
25.) Once you’ve finished a piece, leave it alone for a few hours or overnight, then read it again. You’ll likely recognize areas for improvement.
26.) Exercise your legs and your pen will follow. Going for a run (or walk or jog or whatever you prefer) helps clear your mind and has been known to provide relief from writer’s block.
27.) Ride public transit. Not only is it great for the environment, but it provides a random snapshot of the unique characters that inhabit this world, and could one day inhabit your stories.
28.) Carry a notebook, or use your phone’s memo function. Inspiration for a great line or story can happen at any moment, and can disappear just as quickly–write it down as soon as you can.
29.) Get a friend to read it. If he or she doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say, it may be time to revise.
30.) Don’t be afraid to move things around. Just because you initially wrote something in a particular order doesn’t mean you can’t improve it by rearranging a few points or paragraphs.
31.) Edit obsessively. Check out my editing cheat sheet.
32.) Break the rules. Try something outrageous once in a while.