73 Ways to Become a Better Writer

73 Ways to Become a Better Writer

Reader Comments (304)

  1. Making notes is huge, as you mention in various contexts, so is reading aloud and over and over again. I also think it helps to put it down, wait a while and come back to it with “fresh” eyes, although this doesn’t work well for blogging, a medium in which fast and faulty is usually preferable to slow and perfect. Another great post. Thanks.

  2. This is awesome, Mary.

    I must try this:

    62. Write at the scene. If you want to write about a beach, get a picnic rug and go write by the sea.

    All those details I strain to capture at my desk would be right there, if I’m “at the scene.”

  3. Read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and keep a copy of Strunk and White within arm’s reach of your desk.

    Also, Jack Bickham suggests keeping a journal specifically for work, for analyzing your progress and doing writing exercises, among other things.

  4. WOW! What a fabulous list. Each one has inspired me and gave me great food for thought! # 72 is what I’ve been struggling with… my WIP will shock a few of my followers… but, I must write it my way! Thank you for compiling this list… you and your contributers did an excellant job!

  5. I think 33 (kill clunky sentences) is very important.

    73 (or possibly number 1) should be ‘always think about your reader’.

  6. Expose yourself to as many new experiences in as short amount of time as possible – books, movies, places, people, etc. Inspiration arises from the most unlikely of places and is generally a mashup of experiences!

  7. Write everything down. Don’t trust your memory when you have a good idea, especially at night. Write down random thoughts and ideas. I just saw a tweet about Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake. I couldn’t resist writing it down. What a great title for something!

  8. Set a time limit on each writing session, along with a goal for what you will finish in that time. Great way to defeat Parkinson’s Law.

  9. Thank-you for this list! It has most everything I use when training new writers! I’m going to use it as a tip sheet when we work on skills and provide them a link to your site!

    I would add – may be there already…

    Simply let things be what they are

    let the readers draw the conclusions and feel the emotions for themselves.

  10. And here I thought re-reading my post over and over (and over) was a bad thing!

    One way I’ve found very helpful as of late, is reading fiction. The nonconforming thoughts and stories that come from such books shift your thinking and mindset outside of the complacent bubble you’re accustomed to.

  11. I’d add to this, “write for different media.” For example, when blogging, passive voice is often used for technical and search indexing reasons. It doesn’t mean it’s good writing, and worse, if that’s all you do, just look what happens!

  12. Also – when self-editing, don’t be afraid to cut out a line that seemed brilliant when you wrote it but really doesn’t add much. If you just can’t let it go, cut and paste to an “Ideas” page. If it’s good, it’ll last.

    And a note to self: “Stop following links and write! Right now!”

  13. Thanks, great post!

    I actually just started writing in my journal this morning, I can definitely see how doing this every day would help me get better. Especially at being concise, I ended up with 6 pages about what I wanted to do today.

  14. Great tips. If you’re an okay writer then certainly you can use these to pull out the greatness in your writing. I have to say, though, that some people are just not ever going to be great writers or even a writer at all…

    So, if you’re not a writer, then face the fact and just hire someone to write for you.

  15. All I want to say about this list is …

    I wish i could follow all these instructions. because all I think now a days is about writing on my blog.

    Thanks a lot for this gr8 list.

  16. Trying to convey a certain emotion but not sure how? Listen to music that evokes that emotion in you while writing.

    Thanks this is a great list.

  17. Set a timer and force yourself (even if it’s not your best work) to write your story within a designated amount of time. Once the timer goes off, leave it alone for awhile and revisit it hours later. I find that it’s much easier to retool and improve copy, if I have a basic frame to start on…

  18. You’re a writer if you can’t not write. I’ve been driven to put words onto paper since I was very young. Before I could write, I would hold the pen to the paper and make gibberish fake writing. There was never any question what my college major would be. If you’ve got it, discipline and education can polish and improve it. If you don’t have it, those things can help, but never entirely.

  19. When you’re in the process of writing something, or even when an idea is still percolating, take a shower and let the water beat down on your head for a while. Once you get out, immediately write down the thoughts you just had. I have no idea why this works, but it does.

  20. Hi everyone – I love your additions to the list!

    73 Read Stepen King’s “On Writing”
    74 Keep a copy of ‘Strunk and White’ within arm’s reach.
    75 Keep a journal specially for work, for analyzing your progress and doing writing practice
    76 Always think of your reader
    77 Expose yourself to as many new experiences in a short amount of time as possible.
    Shane Arthur
    78 Learn to LOVE writing and reading
    79 Write like you’re on your first date
    80 Write everything down. Don’t trust your memory when you have a good idea, especially at night.
    John Soares
    81 Set a time limit on each writing session, along with a goal for what you will finish in that time.
    Collen McGee
    82 Simply leet things be what they are.
    Sonny Gill
    83 Read fiction
    Catherine Winters
    84 Write for different media
    Cheryl Bryan
    85 Don’t be afraid to cut out a line that seemed brilliant when you wrote it but really doesn’t add much.
    86 Stop following links and write! Right now.
    Bill Hartzer
    87 Hire someone else to write for you
    88 Read Copyblogger
    89 Trying to convey a certain emotion but not sure how? Listen to music that conveys a certain emotion in you while writing.
    90 Set a timer and force yourself (even if it’s not your best work) to write a story within a designated amount of time.
    Mary (I’ll add another two myself)
    91 Devour ‘Stein on Writing’ regularly.
    92 Subscribe to Write to Done 🙂

    We’re close to 100 tips, folks. Who’s going to get us there?

  21. Wow, 73!

    You missed my #1. In fact my #1 – #73.

    “Read your own writing out aloud.”

    Others have mentioned it too.

    My #74. Read “Reading like a writer” by Francine Prose. Best writing-about-writing I have read.


  22. Great list! You can’t overemphasize #2 (word limits) or #4 (editing).

    I’d like to add a couple of thoughts:

    Find your unique voice
    Love your words when you write them, hold them in suspicion when you edit them.

  23. I love Jean’s in the shower water beating on the head suggestion. Of course! All the best ideas come in the shower or in the car. A voice recorder (or iPhone) comes in handy when the right words come to you while you’re driving.

    • That’s a good suggestion. I like looking at things from opposite ends of the spectrum — or the flip side of the coin.

  24. I didn’t think you could generate such a list of ways. Great article. I will be using some that are mentioned. Thanks.

  25. Great suggestions. Engage strangers in conversation and then write about it from memory. Describe the person, the setting, the conversation. Then use it as a launch for creating a short story.

  26. Great list Mary. I especially love number 8. Live your life with passion. That works for me. Here are a couple more;

    73. Write using a pencil and paper as opposed to on the laptop. Despite all the crossing out, arrows and asterisks, I find I’m more creative when I write using a pencil and a notebook (also prefer unruled, blank pages too).

    74. Write outside. If I need a creative boost, I head to the backyard or the beach. Nature can provide great inspiration when it’s needed.

  27. Awesome list! I was going to put ‘write from the bottom of your heart’ but someone already said it in the comments. I hate robotic writing and I try to incorporate my experiences into my writing. Makes it so much more believable.
    I have a long way to improve but I am ready to try!

  28. Read as much as humanly possible, and make sure you read the type of things you want to write. Best way to learn, in my opinion.

    Blogging as writing practice is fantastic too.

  29. Very basic rule, but it applies to both content and technique:

    If you’re not sure, you don’t know.

    Whether it’s semi-colons, how to spell “contiguous” or the capital of Latvia, it never steers me wrong.

  30. Great list! I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to force it. Know when to walk away. The beauty about writing is that it will be waiting for you when you get back.

  31. So many good ideas! I like #66 especially. And the reverse is also true. I like to analyze books and movies/TV shows that aren’t so good and figure out why they don’t work.

  32. I’ll be taking #1 and #2 to heart in the next couple months. I’ve finally decided on a blog niche (marketing and PR for mid-sized anime conventions), and am going to ruthlessly inflict a 1000-word maximum on myself since I tend to try and cover too many things at a time.

    Thanks for the rest of the tips as well. I know I’m going to need them!!

  33. Loved # 63. Far too often I approach posting or my freelance work as a chore, however, I must say once I sit down and start, I am often thankful to have the time to write.

  34. Brava, Mary … An excellent list indeed! This is a “Can Do” list for those just beginning their writing careers as well as those who have cut their eye teeth on pen and parchment.

    May I also suggest:

    To #39 – Tell everyone: “I’m a writer.” … I would like to add … AND believe it!

    In reference to one’s attitude toward writing, “No guts, no glory” keeps coming to my mind, along with …
    Be fearless AND courageous as you write, as you edit, and as you hit that “Submit” button.

    When it comes to writing scenes, I find that the two scriptwriting courses I took with Paul Nagle at the University of Miami have helped me immensely. The camera sees everything, directing your attention to details that might have otherwise been missed — those critical elements to a tale well told.

    Also, never trust your spell-checker … when in doubt or when I’m proofreading, I go to http://www.m-w.com

    Thanks again, Mary, I thoroughly enjoyed your list and the ongoing comments of my Copyblogger compariots.

  35. 73. Write about what someone else has written.
    74. Think before you include an expletive.
    75. Check out Urban Dictionary for topical inspiration.
    76. Be current – how do today’s headlines apply to your audience?
    77. Can it be turned into a list? Think of at least 5 things you can list about it.

  36. As an addendum to #9, #24, and #47, I’d say never take mundane experiences for granted. Always be open to learning something new.

    Also, bookmark this list and come back to it when you need to get the creative juices flowing. =)

  37. What a great list of tips! Nice job, Mary:

    Here’s one that’s helped me:

    Buy a small notebook & pen to take with you. You’ll never know where inspiration can strike.

    I will be sure to come back to this post again & again!

  38. Great list Mary. There are many I see that I follow and some I will add to my writing tools.

    I especially like:

    3. Accept all forms of criticism and learn to grow from it.
    25. Read lots of books. Both good and bad.
    39. Tell everyone: “I’m a writer.”
    58. Map out a writing schedule for your project and stick to it.
    72. Take risks – don’t be afraid to shock. You are not who you think you are.

    I just finished Stephen King’s “On Writing” and I have to add my vote for his book. There are so many interesting tips and ideas in his book.

  39. Loved your list….except for # 6. It’s almost always a bad idea to outline because it turns writing from something that should be fun into a chore. Also it exercises the wrong (ie: non-creative) part of the brain. Tip # 71 is more like it: mindmapping. In fact, I’d phrase it as: Replace outlining with mindmapping. It’s a little bit of magic.

  40. …Read the comments on your blog, treasure the folk who take the time to leave them and gather the seeds to make great posts like these! Well done, Mary, and thank you for listening to us all.

  41. That is an awesome list. I spent all my life running away from school and responsibility, so I never really cared to much for writing. About 5 months ago I started my online marketing journey and I find that I have to do a lot of reading and writing. Now I have a wordpress blog with 17 posts in it that is a month old. I know I need a lot of work on my writing, but I find the more I read and write the easier it gets. Great Website!

  42. Thanks, Mary – what a great list! A quick comment to your readers about learning a new word every day – just don’t be tempted to use obscure words in your writing. Generally, use the simplest word that conveys the meaning.

    Also, when it comes to journaling…I agree with #44, that it’s a good idea to write down any thoughts or feelings that are cluttering your unconscious mind, so you can free it up for writing. But as for #43, journaling can make writers lazy if they’re just writing for themselves. Writers should always have an audience in mind, even if they’re writing things they’ll never show anyone else. Unless you’re using your journal for free-writing exercises, you should focus on communication rather than self-expression.

  43. 73, huh? That sounds suspiciously like it was supposed to have been 100. Been there!

    Also I don’t see scotch or vodka on the list.

  44. Wow- we’re up to 122 now! Let’s keep on collecting, folks. There nothing in the list yet about writing sales copy…

    Here are questions 92 to 122:
    Hamilton Wallace
    93 Read great writing
    94 Write the opening sentence or headline last
    95 Read your own writing out aloud
    96 Read ‘Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
    97 Write to agitate the mind and the nerves.
    98 Find your unique voice
    99 Love your words when you write them, hold them in suspicion when you edit them.
    Barbara Ling
    100 Write solely from the heart and shun copying others.
    Melanie McBride
    101 Cure for Writer’s Block: Read a great article from a favorite author or publication.
    102 Use a voice recorder (or iPhone) when the right words come to you – but not in the shower.
    103 Write a For and Against article for the same issue. This helps to stretch your thinking.
    104 Engage strangers in conversation. Then write about it from memory, describing the person, setting, and conversation.
    105 Write using a pencil instead of a laptop for more creativity.
    106 Write outside
    Jeffrey Tang
    107 Read as much as humanly possible.
    108 Remember: if you’re not sure, you don’t know.
    Andrew G.R.
    109 Know when to walk away – and when to come back.
    Cat Wagman
    110 Believe that you’re a writer
    111 Never trust your spell checker.
    112 Write about what someone else has written
    113 Think before you include an expletive
    114 Check out the Urban Dictionary for topical inspiration
    115 Be current – how do today’s headlines apply to your audience?
    116 Ask, “Can it be turned into a list?” Think of at least five things you can list about it.
    117 Never take a mundane experience for granted.
    118 Bookmark this list and come back when you need to get those creative juices flowing.
    119 Buy a small notebook and pen to take with you
    120 Read the comments on your blog, treasure the folk who take the time to leave them and gather the seeds to make a great post.
    121 Tell the story you most desperately want to read.
    Jerry M.
    122 Always ask the question…”What if…”

  45. Having just finished an ebook entitled, “101 Slightly Unpredictable Tips for Novelists and Screenwriters,” I read your list with great interest. Loved ’em all. Many are in common with my list. (In fact, one of them WAS mine, as contributed to the Writetodone post you mentioned.)

    But the most important tip that I know of is missing here. And that’s to study story architecture and criteria-based writing. All of these tips are wonderful and valid, every last one. But you could say the same thing to a budding musician, and while empowering, they’ll be of the greatest value to the one that actually studies and masters musical theory, or least learns to read sheet music rather than play by ear.

    To many writers approach the craft of storytelling with a “playing by ear” bias. It’ll work, but it’s a slow and inefficient road. So the best tip out there, for my money, is to go deep into the theory of storytelling and understand what makes a concept great, what makes a character wonderful, what ellicits and killer theme, how to craft scenes and how to discover your voice, and most of all, gain an understanding of the structural paradigms of effective fiction.

    Then these 73 ideas, and the other 29 that I add to them, will really take you where you want to be as a writer.

  46. Wow Mary this is an impressive list! And all the additional suggestions are great too!

    I would add: Write as if you will stand up and present the article to an audience of thousands of real live people. Would they want to listen or would they go home?

  47. Haven’t read through all the comments yet, but might I also suggest taking up story challenges?

    – Write in 101 words.

    – Take up Nanowrimo, and set yourself to write a certain amount of words each day.

    – Write about what you want to write, not what you know.

    – There’s no hard and fast rule to writing. Only tips and notes, left on the road by the many others travelling the same path.

  48. 47. Watch people.

    48. Get to know someone different from you and reflect on the experience.

    I really like these two – I think that characters are the most important part of a story, and I think that you need to watch people and get to know people to create interesting and unique characters in your stories.

  49. i suggest reading “henry Miller on writing” by, well, henry miller. includes some handwritten notes and outlines that are a great insight into a writer’s mind…

  50. Thanks for the list, I will try to follow it.

    One from my side..Keep writing inside your brain when you are not writing it anywhere else. And sleep with a paper and pen behind you.

  51. I love that a lot of these tips don’t have anything to do with writing. Good writers often have lots of non-writing methods that improve their skills on the pad.

    Great work.


  52. Loved them!

    Each one can be expanded easily.

    Especially writing without distraction, Leo suggest to use an Editor that just a blank full screen where you can freely write..

    i’m switching to Dark Room editor

  53. What a great list. Very helpful. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful tips.

    A few more:
    – Ask questions
    – Interview interesting people
    – Everyone has a story to tell: be a vehicle to help them tell it

  54. I wanted to be a writer because I am not a great speaker. In writing, I have more freedom of expression and I could go back and edit the stuff I wrote.

    Unlike in speaking, there is no turning back.

    This post is great as I have come to understand 73 ways to improve my writing skills. Thanks

  55. What and inspiring list! I would like to add:

    Write on ugly paper – I use small scraps of recycled paper for handwritten first drafts, because it tricks my brain to really believe, that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Typing afterwards actually is a lot faster than staring at a pristine white sheet for hours 🙂

    Write in small paragrapghs – It usually takes me between 20 and a 100 words to get to the point. If I break it into paragraphs from the beginning it’s much easier to rearrange (or delete!) later, and get to the point immediately.

  56. I am writing for the past couple of years and have written for magazines like smashing magazine..but I admit that this list is very refreshing and useful to bookmark…

  57. Great post, especially for writers like me who sometimes struggle to see how to edit their writing. ‘When in doubt, cut it out’ is a great motto and i will definitely be using this piece of advice when looking over my work and wondering why it’s not reading right.

  58. We’re up to 133 guys! How far can we take this thing? Still no tips on copy writing. I thought we’re in copywriter’s paradise here…

    Here are tips no 123 to 133:
    Carrie L. Lewis
    123 Dialogue with your characters
    124 Study criteria-based writing
    125 Write as if you will stand up and present the article to an audience of a thousand people. Would they want to listen or go home?
    126 Take up story challenges
    127 Write in 101 words
    128 Take up Nanowrimo
    129 Write about what you want to write, not what you know.
    Jarie Bolander
    130 Write 15 minutes a day. Every day.
    Hussein Nasser
    131 Write with a plain text editor
    132 Write on ugly paper because it tricks the brain to really believe that it doesn’t have to be perfect.
    133 Write in small paragraphs in order to get to the point immediately

    I’ll add another one myself:

    134 Keep an Everything Book – a journal full of crazy ideas, recipes, quotes, brainwaves, drawings, and more crazy ideas.

  59. I’d say, write when it comes to you!
    I have written most of my articles, when the idea simply popped in my mind. Fortunately most of those times I was in a situation to jot down the points or better still, type out the entire article on my laptop.

    At other times, I frequently use this tip of writing down the basic outline and then later building on it.

    This is indeed a Great post for all bloggers, both new as well as experienced.

  60. I have a tendency to wake up at the crack of dawn and have decided that instead of just lying there trying to fall back to sleep or thinking about everything I have to do, I get up and write instead. (or read or read and write) It’s great. It’s quiet. I can think. I guess I’m officially a morning person now.

  61. While I follow quite a few of your points, using WordWeb (a dictionary/thesaurus) and reading my post/article “through the mind of a random joe” helps me quite a bit.

    True story.

  62. Accept no excuses. Write when you’re tired, write when you’re busy, write when you’re uninspired. Write when your computer’s broken, write when you’re in a crowd, write when you would rather have a drink.

  63. Whenever someone asks me how to get started on writing their book, I tell them 3×5 cards. Keep stacks of them rubberbanded together on your person, in your car, around the house, etc. When you think of something for your book (or magazine article), write down it down — one item per card.

    For fiction, these would be character descriptions, plot twists, tidbits of dialogue, scenery, etc. When you have a substantial stack, spread them out on your dining room table and see where the patterns begin to appear. Then gather together all related items into separate piles to develop character sketches, plot arches, etc.

    For non-fiction — in this example a how-to book — again, it’s one item per card, (step, example, description, list). Then you spread the cards out and put them in sequential order.

    Once you have your cards stacked, then sit down at your computer and type the items in. From there you have the framework on which to build and develop your full-blown FIRST draft 🙂

  64. Waisybabu is right about the dictionary/thesaurus. I use a thesaurus all the time. It comes in really handy when trying to compact ideas into 140 character tweets.

    I do think there’s a close connection between talking and writing. If you’re born with a touch o’ the blarney, a golden tongue, you most likely can put that same stuff down on paper.

    Y’all are right about drinking booze sometimes too, when trying to reach deep into the emotional aspects of a matter. I’m surprised no one has mentioned smoking weed. I suspect many have thought of it. Of course, not me. 🙂

    This discussion calls to mind another I’ve had recently somewhere else about self-editing. I think the most successful bloggers, those who ramp to the next level, end up with credentials or as talking heads on TV shows are the ones who don’t hold back, who write what’s in their hearts, consequences be damned. That always means offending some readers. I’m terrible about that, overly concerned about what my children or future employers might think, which is why I’ll likely stay just a run of the mill blogger.

  65. For writing copy, as in ad copy?

    With no “creative team” with which to brainstorm, I have found that clustering helps. I also type (or write) whatever comes to my head, no matter how inane it may seem at first. Somewhere in that mess, my brain grabs the concept I’ve been seeking. There’s nothing quite like that moment when it finally surfaces.

  66. Jessica, yep, that’s me.

    Here’s another (and yes, it’s from my 101 Tips ebook): put on your reviewer hat and write a review of your own story. Helps focus on what reviewers will notice, good and bad. Sometimes when we get outside of ourselves we see things from a fresh perspective. And reviews are nothing if not outside of ourselves (as in, “what the heck are they thinking here?”), and sometimes themselves.

  67. Many of your tips involve capturing VIVID imagery – either through experience, reflection, or by adapting your writing environment. I think that is key — visualize the person(s) you are communicating with: where will they read this, what do their eyes reflect as they engage with your message, what will be the first thing they might say in response — being a great writer is all about being a great “looker” as well!

  68. My tip would be DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU!! That is one writing tip that always sees me through. Always.

    Also, subscribe to Procrastinating Writers (a shameless self-promoting plug, I know 🙂 )

  69. Great Article ! Bookmarked ! These posts about better writing is the best we could get. Concrete and sometimes subtle techniques that really make a difference. Really thanx for what is one more time a great resource.

  70. Excellent article, thanks. With my copywriter’s hat on, I’d recommend checking out Richard Lanham’s ‘Paramedic Method.’ http://tinyurl.com/55femo

    Also, always call a spade a spade. It’s never a long-handled gardening implement!

    If you’re a creative writer, do a ‘stream of consciousness’ piece and see where your thoughts take you.

  71. Wow, awesome post copyblogger! I generally keep a running file of relevant posts/resources to use for my public affairs staff, and this one is going straight to the top of the list! Sometimes in PR, we get so bogged down writing (or re-writing) annual releases that we forget how to be fresh, even when something really newsworthy comes along. These tips will really help to keep us on our toes as writers. Thanks!

  72. I record many random thoughts, story ideas, quotes I hear etc., on my phone when I’m out and about. Later, when I get home, I review them for inspiration. And sometimes, it makes facing the blank screen much easier. Sometimes.

  73. Try writing without thinking about accuracy. I find that not worrying about errors (left brain) allows for easier flow of thought (left brain). Then go back and correct later. Saves time also.

  74. A professor once said, “Kill your darlings.” And that has always helped me cut the crap and keep the truly necessary parts of a piece I’m writing.

  75. Wow, what great suggestions. Having worked as a freelance writer, editor and PR consultant, I’ve learned that there is truth to the phrase – all writing is rewriting. From my perspective, your first draft is to get your thoughts and information down, from that point on, your job is to clarify and communicate your ideas. Less is more is generally right. This is particularly true if you’re dealing with the media where the way you present a story, is often as important as the story you’re presenting.

  76. As well as asking other people for criticism, why not write with them in the first place? Writing collaboratively is a great way to learn from others. And tools like Google Docs, Basecamp and EtherPad are making this easier and easier to do.

  77. Addition: read Dr. Frank Luntz’s “Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear”

    Wonderful post, especially with the additional 60+ ideas 🙂

  78. We’re up to 156 tips now, folks! Can YOU find some more?
    Here are tips 134 to 156:

    Khurram Zahid
    134 Look closely how successful writers make sentences.
    135 Write when it comes to you
    136 Write at the crack of dawn
    137 Accept no excuses
    138 Write when you’re tired
    139 Write when you’re uninspired
    Cat Wagman
    140 Use a stack of 3×5 cards to start writing your book. Use on item or idea per card. Stack the card in order and type them in to develop a first draft.
    Zoltan Bedy
    141 Force yourself to disconnect for a while each day – turn off cell phone, Blackberry, iPod, music, email, Twitter, conversation with others.
    142 Allow your mind to wander.
    143 Try scotch or weed if all else fails…
    Cheryl Bryan
    144 Use ‘clustering’ to free up inspiration.
    145 Put on your reviewer hat and write a review of your own article or story.
    146 Visualize the person you are communicating with: What do their eyes reflect as they read this? What will the first thing they might say in response?
    147 Do what works for you
    Nikki Cooke
    148 Always call a spade a spade. It’s never a long-handled gardening implement!
    149 Check out Richard Lanham’s ‘Parademic Method”
    150 Do a ‘stream of consciousness’ piece and see where it leads you.
    151 Record random thoughts, story ideas, quotes on your phone when you’re out and about.
    David Cervantes
    152 Try writing without accuracy. Not worrying about errors (left brain) allows for easier flow of thought (right brain).
    Big A
    153 Cut the crap
    154 When in doubt, cut it out.
    155 Write collaboratively
    156 Read Dr. Frank Luntz’s “Words that Work”

  79. writing is a therapy… “write what you say, say what you write…mean what you write, write what you mean.. it like our walk matches our talk and our talk matches our walk” =)

  80. I have learnt that there is a time for writing and there is a time for editing. Sometimes if you want to do two of them in the same time you become too critical about what you just wrote. To overcome it, try to write few sentences to state a thought and then start editing.

  81. I have a white board in my office. To try and learn a new word a day, I’m going to a new word on the board every morning with the definition.

    Then when I find myself glancing off at it along the day, hopefully I will learn it.

  82. Many thanks to Mary for compiling a list out of the comments??

    But are we at 200 yet?? Well, just got a bit excited after seeing the list in the comment 🙂

  83. Great list! Here are my additions:

    ~ If you have a sense of where you want your piece to wind up, start there instead and see what happens.

    ~ Steal time for writing wherever and whenever you can find it. (I bring my laptop and write on the train during my commute — and now I write more outside that time, too.)

    ~ Make writing a priority in your life. If you say it’s important to you, then show it in how you spend your time.

  84. I like these ideas to become a better writer. I have used several of them this summer and legitimately feel like i am a much better writer. I am now putting them into action by starting my own Sports News site called MyParadiseSports.com

  85. My tips:
    ~Don’t edit your work to death.

    ~Collect words

    ~Don’t be afraid to bust out the thesaurus to find a word that fits better in a sentence than the one currently there

    ~Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft

  86. Apologies if it’s already been mentioned (I may have forgotten it), but it’s also key to try and eat properly.

    If you only eat junk your mental capacity diminishes, not to mention that focusing becomes nigh impossible. Eat well, and you’ll write well :o)

  87. If you can’t write a book, write a blog post. If you can’t write a blog post, comment on a post.

    Love your tools. As St. Bumpersticker says, “My fountain pen can write better than your honor student!”

  88. Three that I find useful:

    1. When you reach a block, e.g. unsure how a scene should be written or how the plot should develop, do something mindless, like ironing or going for a quiet walk. It allows your thoughts to run free.

    2. Practise condensing. Write a synopsis and then condense that. Précis the condensed synopsis. It helps to get to the bare bones of a story and reveal what it’s really about.

    3. Rewrite from memory a good story you’ve read and then compare the two. Evaluate and learn from the differences.

    BTW, I strongly commend 62 and 63.

  89. I published two articles on Associated content you may be interested in. They tie in very nicely with your list. There are great ideas on the list and some great ideas in the comments that followed. I hope you will read and enjoy my articles.

    1. How I Make My Characters Believable.

    2. Harnessing the power of your emotions. A tribute to Ernest Hemingway

  90. My favorite is #63. Often times as writers we don’t include the background details and those details give depth to any story or article. Thanks so much for the great list – it is a must have for anyone who writes!!

  91. I’m a new blogger, and your tips, as well as some others in the comments, will surely help me in the future months. Thank you!

  92. A writer writes, and having written, moves on to write something else, because a writer is only a writer when in the act of writing; when she is not writing, she is something else.

  93. #6 (write to an outline) makes me a clunky writer. I like a little more free-form structure… to start with. Then I’ll go back and outline to what I’ve written – that way I can find what doesn’t make sense, where there are gaps, how to fix them.

  94. Great article! Thanks for tip #60, I had not heard of that book. I have tweeted this article. Suggestion – have a button to tweet the article for people who want to do that.

  95. Here’s one. And it’s possibly the most important rule of all:


    To illustrate, here are two examples from an imaginary lonely hearts column:

    #1 – “Single biker, 40, seeks friendship. Loves fun and laughter, wine, eating and staying in evenings. Great sense of humour!!!”

    #2 – “Fat, penniless biker, 40, with drink problem seeks blonde bombshell, 20, for no-strings relationship.”

    The first advertiser ‘tells’ us he has a great sense of humour; the second advertiser ‘shows’ us. (OK, he may not end up with the girl of his dreams, but he’d certainly get more readers.)

    By the way…

    I strongly disagree with Gbenga Alaran’s (comment 130) assertion that the words ‘if’, ‘but’ and ‘can’t’ are weak.
    IF I were to abandon these three essential words, I CAN’T see how it would improve my writing. BUT then again, if I don’t try I suppose CAN’T be sure? Does anyone else feel this way? Perhaps readers would like to suggest some reasonable alternatives?

  96. Thanks for the wonderful list and it has me thinking.

    I have a couple of guestions on your list:

    What did you mean in #64 “Start with metaphors and stories”?

    I read #66 “Deconstruct and analyze books and articles you enjoy” and I was wondering if you had any tips on how to do this or know any books that explain the process?




  98. Hemingway supposedly read his pages and, when he found a sentence he particularly liked, crossed it out. The idea was that such sentences were written to be admired by other writers, not to communicate with the reader.

    Don’t start with a blank page. Blank pages are scary. Start with yesterday’s blog, or a piece of research and then begin.

  99. Tremendous resource. Thanks so much for compiling the list. One thing I think might be missing from this discussion – and which would provide some potential filters for the list is an examination of WHY we write. Depending on your profession, personal aspirations or personal stage of enlightened development, the function writing plays in your life can be very different. And as with all things, your goals can certainly shape your path, and the steps best to explore along it.

    I’d like to think I could get around to a blog post on this subject, but given my life these days, if it’s of interest to you, go for it. 🙂

  100. This was quite a big help for me and my nagging writer’s block. I must say that all of these will be helpful in the future.
    I have a tip for writing as well: When you are at a complete loss for words (literally) and have no idea what to write, get a piece of paper and a pen that no longer has any ink. Sit and “write” with the pen that doesn’t have ink. Just do it like you normally would. Just “write” what you are feeling at that moment. Those words that don’t appear on the paper, in the end, will be some of the best writing you will have ever “written.” You don’t have to worry about the final result. It’s just nonsensical writing. Trust me. It works amazingly.

  101. I like the idea of writing on the toilet 😉 I find it kind of funny, but I bet it’s a great place to get some peace.

  102. I am so anxious to become a better writer! I feel a real fire inside to do this. Thanks for these great tips!

  103. Every one of these tips listed is impeccable advice, but I must say, the one that stuck with me most is “Tell people: ‘I’m a writer'”. That’s a nice big confidence booster for anyone who aspires to be one of the timid creatures we all know as authors in this day and age.

  104. I agree Kafka. It has been very difficult for me to say “I’m an author”. Now though, I actually have the proof copy of the book I have written “Emotional What? Emotional Intelligence for the rest of us”, in my hands… now I KNOW it’s for real and I’ll be able to say it with more confidence. Very exciting!

  105. I liked this one: Rethink what is ‘normal’. Does that mean that I can change things around in my life so I am the normal one and everyone else are the weirdos? Sounds awesome.

    I can’t wait until I’m old enough to drive so I can put #62 into practise. Maybe I’ll start with describing school classroms and go from there. Baby steps 🙂

    I didn’t really find any part of this list special that I hadn’t heard before…except the 24 hr thing which I think was just a joke anyway. I have inadvertently started #11 by buying a book of weird words called “The Completely Superior Person’s Book of Words” by Peter Bowler. It’s kind of funny, especially the listing for “abecadarian insult”.

    It’s funny how writing tips get recycled so much to the point where the same things get repeated over and over.

  106. the last ten points are the crucial ones. Socialising with other writers is beneficial, because writing is a lonely process.

  107. Very instructive tips. Thanks. What resonated with me more is itemizing your points before you start writing. My addition to the list – Ask experienced writers questions when opportuned. Thanks.

  108. Here are things I do. Maybe they can help you too!

    -Keeping an artist’s journal. It’s basically anything and everything that inspires me in book format [I use an altered book]. I keep text, photographs, scraps of paper, found objects, and story ideas in it.

    -Read science journals such as Science or Nature. Some of the things scientists are discovering now are just so amazing, so inspirational, and so bizarre that they are bound to get your creative juices flowing!

    -Write a bit about your characters’ personalities, why they are who they are, etcetera and keep this in mind when writing.

    -Reading postmodern fiction and anything else that inspires, religious and occult things especially, and keeping notes on what you like and why.

    -Don’t be afraid to use something unusual–such as alternative punctuation–if it fits in with the theme or tone of your story.

  109. Wise saying (unfortunately I can’t remember whose wise saying it is): “The way to write a sob story is to be callous.” And by extension, the way to affect readers’ emotions of any kind is to give them the facts, without telling them what emotion to feel.

  110. Why do bloggers like long lists so much? Your tips are great, but would have been better if you’d focused on only the important ones.

  111. I’m going to take #42 to heart (42. Comment on your favorite blogs.) and say that this is a great post and a great blog.

    I got over my fear of writing (in the public eye) by creating a blog. I’ve been doing it now for a year and I feel I’ve improved a lot.


  112. This one really stuck out to me: 39. Tell everyone: “I’m a writer.” — I don’t call myself a writer because I feel I’m not established, but I guess it’s all about creating a mindset for yourself.

  113. Great list! More thoughts:

    Try joining Toastmasters — not only for speaking, but for writing speeches with a particular goal in mind (i.e., write to persuade, explain how to work a gadget, etc.).

    Submit your written pieces to community newspapers. No guarantee they will be published, but you never know.

    Try writing a press release.

    Write your headline last.

    Don’t use jargon.

  114. Walked up to a booth yesterday at the convention I’m covering, and the booth babe’s 1st question was, “Are you a reader?” To which I replied, “No, I’m a writer!” The evil laugh that followed by me echoed throughout the convention hall….

  115. Quite the list Mary!

    I was thinking along the lines of tactics, but you’ve indicated ways to weave writing into everyday living. The Writer’s Path. live and breathe it.

    Makes me realize I’ve just been dabbling.

  116. Write like you talk. Speak it into a microphone or use the “voice to text” option in MS accessibility. DON’T put on your writer’s hat. Just say it then write it out.

    Hey, that sounded natural, didn’t it?

  117. I do that, Webwordslinger, however, I get dinged on for excessive use of commas, simply because, I feel the need to pause for effect. Not too many people get that….

  118. Write when inspiration hits. Even if its in the middle of the road and you are driving( A SCOOTER), Its raining and thoughtless car drivers are splashing you with muck from the road!

  119. Give yourself permission to write crap! Get the words on the page, you can always go back and edit them later. You can lose a lot of time trying to write the ‘perfect’ paragraph. No one publishes their first draft, so allow the ideas to flow, and fix it when you have your editing hat on.

  120. I find that my yoga practice is enormously helpful to my writing. And try to cut out the verb “to be” in all its forms as much as possible.

    Great list!

  121. I just purchased “On Writing Well.” Thanks for the tip. Two of my favorite books about writing are Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

  122. Most inspiring tip: 39. Tell everyone: “I’m a writer.”

    Give yourself something to live up to. People always ask me in return ‘Oh, what do you write?’ Well, I better be writing something. The pressure is on.

  123. More tips….

    1001 – Get different perspectives.

    1002 – Talk to your grandparents…

    1003 – Ask a child, what they think.

    1004 – Read a Dr. Seuss book before writing.

    1005 – Read Buchowski or Harold Robbins.

    1006 – Read comic books.

    1007 – Go buy a famous script off of a street vendor on the streets of NYC.

    1017 – Toss aside the macbook and pick up some multi-colored crayons and a bright white piece of paper…

  124. Great tips, Mary! Sorry it took me nearly a year to get here… traffic was hellacious!

    My favorite:67.
    Know about story architecture. Many writers don’t. Which is like doing heart surgery or flying an airliner by intuition. Survival rates are low.

  125. Thanks for the list…
    I couldn’t agree more with you about writing down fleeting ideas…
    However, I must admit I need to work on actually doing it!

  126. Great list but it would be nice if you could upload all 100+ tips to a voting site so you could crowdsource a ‘top x’ list of tips…some must be (widely agreed to be) more valuable than others.

  127. I love this.

    Especially 39: Tell everyone: “I’m a writer”

    My husband tells people I’m a writer when they ask but I can’t bring myself to. I love to write but don’t have the confidence (or thick enough skin) to use the word myself. Yet.

    Great list.

  128. Wow, what great suggestions. Having worked as a freelance writer, editor and PR consultant, I’ve learned that there is truth to the phrase – all writing is rewriting

  129. Bird by Bird is an amazing book on writing, I’ve read a few..Stephen King’s book is also good…I love your suggestion 65 & 72…72. Take risks – don’t be afraid to shock. You are not who you think you are.

  130. My coder is trying to convince me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the expenses. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress on several websites for about a year and am concerned about switching to another platform. I have heard very good things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can transfer all my wordpress content into it? Any kind of help would be greatly appreciated!

    • I would ask your coder why they think it’s so important to switch. What are the benefits? I don’t know of any.

  131. find something, or someone, and describe them as in depth as possible using words that you dont usually use. Broaden your vocabulary.

    check for repetition

    study different authors’ styles and try writing short stories in their voice.

    read, read, read, read, read, read, read. and when you’re done with that. read some more.

    write for at least 30 minutes every day. this prevents writer’s block.

    create character sketches and figure out exactly how your character would react to any situation.

    watch movies and pick out celebrities that you want to base your character’s looks on. watch things that they’re in and study their voice, their expressions, their movements.

    make faces at yourself in the mirror.

    pretend to be your main character, or characters, for a little while and see how they would act in your position. you will become more in tune with your characters.

    read your stories and make sure that your main characters develop and change throughout the story and that they learn from something. don’t create characters that never change *cough cough twilight cough cough*

    write about really strange things that would never happen and create worlds and cities that don’t exist. this way you become more imaginative and creative since you have to go off of your mental image and nothing else.

  132. Great list, gets me excited to write even when I’m done with school. That is my tip, learn something new, be it for a degree or for fun, and then write about it. When it interests you that is where your writing will shine.

  133. Don’t wait for NaNoWriMo: set a (high) daily word count goal and keep to it. When you’ve done this for three months, write a conclusion … you’re done. Now clean it up and send it out. Start over.

    The most important thing I can think of to help all of us become better writers is to foster an awareness that this is a business just the same as being a dentist or an accountant is a business.

    Repeat the above until you are getting at least one acceptance or one rejection a week.

    Read at least one book about the craft of writing each month to 6 weeks. Study it. Work out the exercises.

    Turn off the internet. Unplug your Ethernet cable / switch off the wlan.

    When you are done writing for the day (see the word goals above), plug back in and go find a writing website to read for an hour or so.

    Get an excellent dictionary. Use it. Read one page every day. You won’t memorize the entire page, but words will start to sneak in to your vocabulary. For a writer, this is a good thing.

    While writing, put your thesaurus out of easy reach. If you can’t think of a good synonym for “Sam peed over the end of the dock.” and you don’t want to use the word “pee” or “peed” or some variant thereof, have Sam throw up, instead. He’ll never know the difference.

    From time to time write in a completely different genre to force yourself to treat writing as a craft to be learned.

    Don’t write stuff you aren’t prepared to stand behind and defend. If you are going to have mud slung at you, make sure it is for a good reason.

    That said, anything worth writing is likely to ruffle some feathers. Write it anyway.

    A little tact goes a long way. But let it come as a surprise.

    All the money is in being either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. Mediocrity hardly ever pays off.

  134. I must say, that I have a fear of writing. But one must be a Disaster before becoming a Master. I will continue to pray for the people who will be on this journey with me. Thank you so much for this blog. I will countiue to do the uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable.

  135. These are good suggestions. I think one of the most important is just to write, if you can´t or don´t know how to start just try free style writing.

  136. Thanks for the excellent post… This is a great list and highlights a lot of areas which I’ve been already analyzing but many others I hadn’t thought about. Humbling and makes me think of how much room there is for improvement but hey – Room for Improvement = Opportunity right? 🙂



  137. Great tips. I love numbers 7,8,9,& 20. I actually write for the examiner about something which I have a passion for- weddings. I’m making a few bucks on the side, receiving exposure, experience and at the same time I’m building a portfolio.

  138. Really great post!

    #73: Put your ipod on shuffle. Listen to a (random) song and then write about anything it makes you think of for 10 minutes non stop. Repeat a couple more times, as much as you’d like (song, write, song, write, etc).

  139. A great tip that I have found hugely useful is signing up to twitter #1k1hr

    Keep the tag in search in tweetdeck (or similar) and that way when anyone in the world is looking for a writing partner you all agree to spend the next hour writing as close to or more than 1000 words. Somehow I find that hugely effective in getting/keeping me going

  140. As a blogger, I am not sure that all of these tips are intuitive. Sometimes it’s important just to put that article out. Not too much of editing, not too much of wasting time on something that you need get back to.

    Instead of creating fear factor, is my article perfect enough I recommend that you go with the flow. Publish it and let the chips fall where they may.

    While writing a book, it’s a whole different thing…

    Best regards from Belgrade

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