201 Top Tips to be a Better Writer

    be a better writer - woman at typewriter

    ​Note from the Editor: By popular demand this is an updated version of one of Mary's most popular posts from the WritetoDone archives so today's readers can benefit from these wonderful tips.​

    Do you wonder how to be a better writer?

    The 201 tips below will help you find out how to be the writer you were born to become.

    There are many barriers that can stop you from being a better writer. Or a writer at all.

    Maybe you haven’t yet got the right mindset, or you need to establish good writing habits. Or maybe you need to focus on professional development, or on boosting your creativity.

    I have to admit that it took me a long time to even think of myself as a writer. Even when I was already a published author, I didn’t consider myself a REAL writer.

    Then, one day, I found a simple saying that helped me realize that I was already a writer. The saying goes:

    A writer writes.

    Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

    When doubts about being a writer started creeping in, I would say to myself, “A writer writes!”

    That brought me back on track.

    Talking of track, the following collection of tips for writers by WTD readers are designed to help you move forward on your journey as a writer. They will help you realize that you are already a writer and help you become a better one.

    The tips are organized into different sections:

    ​The first set of tips are about the mindset that can help you be a writer:

    ​How to Develop a Successful Mindset

    mindset - man at computer
    1. ​Be open, curious, present, and engaged.
    2. Accept all forms of criticism and learn to grow from it.
    3. Live with passion.
    4. Say to everyone: “I’m a writer.”
    5. Recognize your fear and overcome it.
    6. Rethink what is ‘normal’.
    7. Check if your assumptions are right.
    8. Accept no excuses.
    9. Break out of your comfort zone.
    10. Approach writing with gratitude, not just with a ‘must do this’ attitude.
    11. Take risks – don’t be afraid to shock. You are not who you think you are.
    12. Always think of your readers.
    13. Learn to LOVE writing and reading.
    14. Write like you’re on your first date.
    15. Simply let things be what they are.
    16. Expose yourself to as many new experiences in a short amount of time as possible.
    17. Love your tools. As St. Bumpersticker says, “My fountain pen can write better than your honor student!”
    18. Embrace your shadow. Discover what traits and characteristics you don’t want to express.
    19. Write to agitate the mind and the nerves.
    20. Remember: if you’re not sure, you don’t know.
    21. Know when to walk away – and when to come back.
    22. Believe that you’re a writer.
    23. Destroy something regularly. Picasso said “Every act of creation is first of all an action of destruction.”
    24. Never take a mundane experience for granted.
    25. Keep fit. A fit body supports creativity.
    26. Be Yourself. No need to get inspired by someone else.
    27. Never Give up.

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    How to Develop the Craft of Writing

    craft of writing

    ​We sometimes think of writing as an art, but it is more helpful to think of it as a craft. Here are tips that can help you develop the craft of writing:

    28.​Use simple, declarative sentences.
    29. Avoid passive voice.
    30. Limit your use of adjectives and adverbs.
    31. Keep it simple.
    32. Cut the crap.
    33.Don’t overwrite.
    34. Go easy on descriptive narrative (settings, people, etc.).
    ​35. Re-examine every word that’s three syllables or longer and see whether it could be replaced by a simpler word.
    36. If you have a sense of where you want your piece to wind up, start there instead and see what happens.
    37. Avoid these three weak words – unless absolutely necessary: Ifs, Buts, and Can’ts.
    38. Never rescue your hero.
    39. Practice monotasking. Set a timer for uninterrupted writing.
    40. Work on brilliant headlines.
    41. Start with metaphors and stories.
    42. Write the opening sentence or headline last.
    43. Write solely from the heart and shun copying others.
    44. Think before you include an expletive.
    45. Ask, “Can it be turned into a list?” Think of at least five things you can list about it.
    46. Use the mini-skirt rule: Make it long enough to cover everything, but short enough to keep it interesting.
    47. Write in small paragraphs in order to get to the point immediately.
    48. 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?
    49. Do what works for you.
    50. Always call a spade a spade. It’s never a long-handled gardening implement!
    51. Try writing without accuracy. Not worrying about errors (left brain) allows for easier flow of thought (right brain).


    How to Establish Good Writing Habits

    writing habit

    ​If you wonder how to be a writer, a key piece is to develop habits that help you improve as a writer.

    ​52. Stretch or exercise in between writing.
    ​53. Map out a writing schedule for your project and stick to it.
    54. Make a note of ideas for further development before you leave a piece for tomorrow.
    ​55. Steal time for writing wherever and whenever you can find it.
    56. Keep a copy of ‘Strunk and White’ within arm’s reach.
    57. Keep a journal specially for work, for analyzing your progress and doing writing practice.
    58. Write on ugly paper because it tricks the brain to really believe that it doesn’t have to be perfect.
    ​59. Write when you’re tired.
    ​60. Rewrite from memory a good story you’ve read and then compare the two. Evaluate and learn from the differences.
    ​61. Practice 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.
    ​62. Make writing a priority in your life. If you say it’s important to you, then show it in how you spend your time.
    63. Write when you’re uninspired.
    ​64. Trick yourself into starting – you only need to commit to writing 15 minutes a day.
    ​65. 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.
    66. Force yourself to disconnect for a while each day – turn off cell phone, Blackberry, iPod, music, email, Twitter, conversation with others.
    67. Set a time limit on each writing session, along with a goal for what you will finish in that time.
    ​68. Don’t be afraid to bust out the thesaurus to find a word that fits better in a sentence than the one currently there.
    69. Buy a small notebook and pen to take with you.
    ​70. Stop following links and write! Right now.
    71. Set a timer and force yourself (even if it’s not your best work) to write a story within a designated amount of time.
    72. Read great writing.
    73. Write at the crack of dawn.
    ​74. Devour ‘Stein on Writing’.
    ​75. Read Write to Done regularly.
    76. Use a voice recorder (or iPhone) when the right words come to you – but not in the shower.
    77. Write with a plain text editor.
    78. Engage strangers in conversation. Then write about it from memory, describing the person, setting, and conversation.
    ​79. Always ask the question…”What if…”
    ​80. Dialogue with your characters.
    ​81. Take up story challenges.
    82.  Write 15 minutes a day. Every day.
    ​83.  Drink water to avoid fatigue.
    84.  Use some opera as background music or any kind of music with a story.
    ​85.  Start your writing ahead of time – not hours before a deadline.


    How to Develop Professionally as a Writer

    professional

    ​Professional development is important in whatever field you want to find success. The following tips will show you how to think about professional development as a writer.

    ​86. Become a blogger.
    87. Write for publication, even if it’s only for the local newsletter or a small blog.
    88. Study criteria-based writing.
    89. Comment on your favorite blogs.
    90. Read Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” at least once a year.
    91. Read Stephen King’s “On Writing”
    92. Take a writing course.
    93. Join a writing group. If you can’t find one, form one.
    94. Study story architecture.
    95. Socialize with other writers.
    96. Write for different media.
    97. Enter writing competitions.
    98. Check out Richard Lanham’s ‘Parademic Method’
    99. Hire someone else to write for you.
    100.Work with a mentor.


    ​How to Write Better

    write better

    ​Here is a selection of simple tips that will show you how to write better.

    ​101. Use self-imposed word limits.
    102. Outline. And then write to that outline.
    103. Learn a new word a day.
    104. Write collaboratively.
    ​105. ead Dr. Frank Luntz’s “Words that Work”
    106. Read Copyblogger.
    107. Mean what you write, write what you mean.
    108. Write about what someone else has written.
    109. Get the pen and fingers moving.
    110. Learn a foreign language to the point where you can think in that language.
    111. Write your own life story.
    112. Get enough sleep at night.
    113. Take a15 minute nap when your mind gets fuzzy.
    114. Harness the power of your emotions.
    115. 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?
    116. Write in different genres: blog posts, poems, short stories, essays.
    117. Read grammar books.
    118. Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.
    119. Try to eat properly. If you only eat junk your mental capacity diminishes and you can’t write well.
    120.Work your way through “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.
    121. If you can’t write a book, write a blog post.
    If you can’t write a blog post, comment on a post.
    122. Write without distractions.
    123. Tell the truth- that way you don’t need to remember what you wrote.
    124. Look closely at how successful writers make sentences.
    125. Write about what you want to write, not what you know.
    126. Watch movies. Can you write the story better?
    127. Write in a crowded café.
    128. Write on the toilet.
    129. Write for 24 hours straight.
    130. Write. And then write more.
    131. Read, think, read, write, ponder, write – and read some more.
    132. Listen to how people talk.
    133. Read many books. The good and the shitty ones.
    134. Listen to podcasts on writing tips.
    135. Be inspired by other art forms – music, dance, sculpture, painting.
    136. Read your old stuff and acknowledge how far you’ve come – and how far you have to go.
    137. Make writing your priority in the morning.
    138. Keep squeezing words out even if when you feel uninspired.
    139. Read works from different cultures. It helps keep your writing from tasting stale in the mouths of your readers.
    140. Write during your most productive hours of the day.
    141. Designate time to research.
    142. Take up Nanowrimo.
    143. Go to the supermarket, the ball game, the class room, the building site. Make notes of the sensuous details, the atmosphere, the people.
    144. Deconstruct and analyze books and articles you enjoy.
    145. Read ‘Reading Like a Writer’ by Francine Prose.
    146. Find your unique voice.
    147. Write a For and Against article for the same issue. This helps to stretch your thinking.
    148. Tell the story you most desperately want to read.
    149. Read as much as humanly possible.
    150. Be current – how do today’s headlines apply to your audience?


    How to Edit What You Write

    edit

    ​151. Read what you’ve written over and over, until I can’t find any more problems.
    152. Never trust your spell checker.
    153. Show what you write to a trusted friend for feedback.
    154. Edit, and edit again.
    155. Don’t edit your work to death.
    156. There is a time for writing, and there is a time for editing. Don’t do both at once otherwise you’ll become too critical about what you wrote.
    157. When in doubt, cut it out.
    158. Take a break between writing and editing.
    159. Read your stuff aloud to anyone who can stand it – including the cat.
    160. Go back and cut 10% from your word count.
    161. When in doubt, cut it out.
    162. Kill clunky sentences.
    163. Let your articles rest and then return to them with fresh eyes.
    164. Ask someone else to proofread.
    165. Don’t be afraid to cut out a line that seemed brilliant when you wrote it but really doesn’t add much.
    166. Read your own writing out aloud.
    167. Love your words when you write them, hold them in suspicion when you edit them.
    168. Put on your reviewer hat and write a review of your own article or story.


    How to Become More Creative

    creative

    ​Nothing is more important than creativity when it comes to writing. The following selection of tips will boost your creativity.

    ​169. Make notes of your (fleeting) brilliant ideas.
    170. Keep a journal to keep the writing juices flowing.
    171. Use a journal to sort out your thoughts and feelings.
    172. Watch people.
    173. Write in 101 words.
    174. Do a ’stream of consciousness’ piece and see where it leads you.
    175. Allow your mind to wander.
    176. Try scotch or weed if all else fails…
    177. Meditate regularly to steady the mind.
    178. Mow the lawn, take a walk, go for a run…anything that requires the conscious mind to focus so the subconscious is free to create.
    179. Bookmark this list and come back when you need to get those creative juices flowing.
    180. Record random thoughts, story ideas, quotes on your phone when you’re out and about.
    181. Use ‘clustering’ to free up inspiration.
    182. Keep the flow going. If it’s clicking for you, keep writing.
    183. Write using a pencil instead of a laptop for more creativity.
    184. Check out the Urban Dictionary for topical inspiration.
    185. Get to know someone different from you and reflect on the experience.
    186. Try new ideas or hobbies – the more variety you have in your life, the more likely you are to keep on generating good ideas on the page.
    187. Take time to muse.
    188. Write at the scene. If you want to write about a beach, get a picnic rug and go write by the sea.
    189. Use mindmaps for inspiration.
    190. Write everything down. Don’t trust your memory when you have a good idea, especially at night.
    191. Trying to convey a certain emotion but not sure how? Listen to music that conveys a certain emotion in you while writing.
    192. Cure for Writer’s Block: Read a great article from a favorite author or publication.
    193. Write on paper with the opposite hand. The awkwardness and level of difficulty create time for more thoughts to enter your head.
    194. When you feel blocked, do something mindless, like ironing or going for a quiet walk.
    195. Write outside.
    196. Write when it comes to you.
    197. Don’t wait for ideas. Find them everywhere.
    198. 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.
    199. Study nature for simile possibilities.
    200. Collect words.
    201. Never stop dreaming!

    ​Commit to becoming a better writer

    If you find these tips helpful, please print them out and highlight the ones that speak to you. I’d like to thank all WTD readers who have helped us collect these tips on how to become a better writer.

    I hope that some of these tips will spark something within that will help you to become the writer you were born to be.

    ​WTD ​​ULTIMATE WRITER'S BUNDLE


    $1229 of  Writing  Resources for

    One Incredibly Low Price of $49

    ​Ends Friday 11th May - Don't Miss Out

    About the author

      Mary Jaksch

      Mary Jaksch is best known for her exceptional training for writers at WritetoDone.com and for her cutting-edge book, Youthful Aging Secrets. In her “spare” time, Mary is also the brains behind GoodlifeZEN.com, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

    • Parul Jain says:

      My dream is to become a best selling author one day but my parents won’t allow me to choose career as an author. They always scold me for that. 🙁

      What should I supposed to do now?

    • proxy list says:

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    • Great information – thanks! Love it!

    • I loved all of it, #13 has to be a must-do!

    • Kelly says:

      Wow! I think you’ve nailed it there! Really helpful tips certainly worth following. On the other hand, not every person can be a good writer even if he/she follows all 201 pieces if advice. I believe talented writers have inborn qualities which in future can be improved. Without charisma, ability to impress and appeal to emotions, feeling what the reader needs to read no writer is a good writer.

    • Ronie says:

      Thank you! i love to write and express how i feel when i am hopeless.
      These advises can be helpful for me.. 🙂

    • wizz writing girl says:

      thank you! this is very helpful to me.
      becoming a writer is my GOAL
      this was, has ,and will be in the future, very helpful to me.
      Thank you again

    • lmao says:

      nice advice. thanks

    • Varina Suellen Plonski says:

      Great tips! Reading through – and please don’t take this wrong, it’s just how my brain works! – but did you notice that #158 and #162 are the same? When in doubt, cut it out.

      To replace the duplicate, may I suggest this: “Don’t edit while you write, or you’ll never get anything written past a very polished page 1.”

      Love #154! Having someone you trust read your work is so important. You need feedback! #165 says proofread, and to me that only means checking grammar and punctuation, not evaluation and critique. Feedback is CRUCIAL!

      I also love #149. That’s why I’m writing now!

      • whizz writing girl says:

        *SAME*

        🙂 😉

    • Hi there, its fastidious post regarding media print, we all
      know media is a fantastic source of data.

    • salim says:

      great Collection of Writing Tips. now i write best . Thank you

    • Red_eye says:

      I found this tips are soooo helpful.
      I just got criticised by someone and it kinda hurt me because what she said are too painful to be heard. Even tough if i get many good responses with my story and she is the only one who bashes my story ATM, i felt disappointed at myself. Thankfully, i found this tips and it makes me believe in myself again like i just found the energy in me that left me just now^^

      So, thank you. Thank you and thank you!

    • Raina Mahoney says:

      Thank you! I’m a new writer looking for enough inspiration to start and enough realism to plan. That’s what your post gave me.

      • Vinita says:

        Glad to be of help, Raina. Looking forward to reading what you write…

    • sara says:

      thank you sooo very much.. it was a twinkling post that made me get my first step into writing.. thanks again.. one fine day ii am going to become a good may be the best writer too..

    • Gil says:

      Love the tips. Already bookmarked this page. I like this ones: Stretch or exercise in between writing. Learn to LOVE writing and reading. so true!
      here’s one from me: use tools for writers to make it easier!

    • syd says:

      Thank you for these.. I love reading books and I am inspired to write my own.. I foresee myself to become a good writer and it will certainly happen because of this tips.

    • GrammarPolice says:

      Ditch Strunk and White and get a good guide to writing, like Zinsser’s On Writing Well. Strunk has been sunk.

    • rashid says:

      awesome.. so long i have intention to write but still not capable to start the writing except write in my diary

    • farhan says:

      wow well it is a good adea thank you very much indeed

    • Some great points here which will definitely help me for future writing exploits and thanks for sharing as it must have taken you a long time to compile this list. Great stuff!

    • I am really impressed by the list you have produced. After I publishing my first novel called” Love journey from Delhi to Sydney” I felt very disheartened , because I hardly sold any copy. I have received further inspiration and decided that I am not going to give it up. I will develop better skill and improve my writing technique no matter what it takes. Thanks a lot. Kuldip

    • Adebayo Garba says:

      This is wonderful! I’m thrilled by the list and I’ll surely start developing my writing skills.
      I’ve got quite a number of issues to write on and this realy, is a motivator.

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you for this wonderful list!

      – Write for 24 hours straight: What a great idea, I think this could be really awesome. This would be my next project.

      – Write 15 minutes a day. Every day: I do this and it works. Try it, too!

      – Write when you’re tired: Especially in the morning, when the world is dark, writing becomes a kind of magic.

    • jason stclair says:

      Lots of good stuff in here. I keep a box with all my bits of paper in it…thoughts, charcater profiles and info that I need to reflect on regularly. I also have a map with pins suck in it to represent all of the characters current location. Whenever I’m writing I spread all of it out around me so that I can re-immerse myself into the story.

    • Trish says:

      Lots of great tips. Please explain #99, though – I can understand having a mentor (#100), but hiring someone else to write for you? How will this make you a better writer…?

    • Loganathan says:

      //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?..

      Very Nice and Useful tips..!! Thanks a lot…!!

    • Karen says:

      Wow! This list it’s so awesome, it’s left me speechless. Which kind of sucks when you’re trying to leave a comment! I really like the tip about socializing with other writers. I need to join my local writing group, too. I think that will help my writing (technique, creativity, etc.) a great deal. Thank you for taking the time to compile and post all of these great tips!

    • anyy says:

      you just don’t know how you have helped me.. I understand myself more now 🙂 I used to worry much about what others might think of me.. writing and talking to myself? plus English not being my first language, uhhh! but yeahhhh! I’m a writer.. cozzz a writer writess! thanks and more power to your site!

    • Jevon says:

      This is a lot to take in. I like the point 13: learn to LOVE writing and reading. Points 129 and 177 really made me laugh. But I wish you could elaborate on point 38: never rescue your hero.

    • Ceejae Devine says:

      I’m really glad I found my way to your blog…it feels like I just flew through a time-warp of hours with a kind, caring, gifted, indispensable friend.

    • Jason says:

      I read the book “Writing Down The Bones” and it helped tremendously with my writing but I continually struggle getting my thoughts down on paper in a clear and concise manner. These tips will be a great addition to help me with my writing skills.

    • Damien says:

      I have printed this to occupy the last bit of real estate on my pinboard. Thanks, Mary 🙂

    • Claudia says:

      WOW! What a list. I never thought you could break writing down so succinctly. Yes Carol, we had all better get cracking 🙂 Another great read to improve your writing is 10 Secrets to Writing Well and Showcasing Your Work. Definitely worth a read…

    • Wow, well, you have raised the bar for long-list posts here…guess I’d better get crackin’ as you’ve outstripped the 113-tip one I did a while back!

    • To read and stay focused trough the entire blog I think a lot of people might need a post on ‘How to be a Reader’! Great post!

    • david says:

      I really connected with number 95, about socialising with other writers. I was talking with some serious writers recently at a workshop, and made the mistake of asking, “What’s your real job?” The answer is, of course, “I’m a writer,” as I understood after having received some frank feedback about my misconception. The question I should have asked in that context was “What’s your day job?” which can be quite different to your real job. The group included a guy whose day job was “balloon pilot”, but who was more excited about his real job as a writer, even though he’s never made a cent from it (yet).

    • Manisha says:

      This is very helpful – thank you for sharing!

    • Sarah says:

      Excellent list! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m a big fan of any list that’s willing to touch on so many different things – you never know what’s going to work best. Thanks again!

    • The scotch and weed tip through me for a loop! LOL! Love single malt scotch! Cheers for an enlightening post!

    • Laura says:

      Some years ago, I put on writer’s conferences at UC Irvine. One year, Theodore Sturgeon was one of our visiting writers. He was a fascinating man and wonderful teacher. One of the students asked him about being a writer. he said, “A writer writes. A writer will always write. A writer will write in the pouring rain when all he has is his hands and wet cardboard.” I really loved that statement.

      He was also known, at least in the science fiction community, for Sturgeon’s Law: “Ninety percent of [science fiction] is crap, but then, ninety percent of everything is crap.”

    • Kim says:

      This is a long list, but every bit of it is insightful! Love it!

    • Cassie says:

      I needed to read this on a slow-moving Monday morning. Thank you!

    • This is the kind of blog post that you want to glue to a dartboard. Every morning chuck a dart and try to live up to what you hit.

      Unless you hit yourself.

      In which case – you really need to aim higher.

      Great post, Mary.

    • That is a huge list full of really great tips! Thank you for sharing them!

      • I look forward to reading some great stuff from you in the future 🙂

    • Hi June, I think the idea of printing a copy of the list is very good. It helps if we can remind ourselves again and again of simple truths.

    • June says:

      This is a fantastic list. Thank you so much for putting it together. I’m going to print a copy off and have it by my desk to use for reference. I know that it will be extremely useful for me.

      Thanks again 🙂

    • What a wonderful list!

      Helpful – yes.

      Awakening – yes.

      A multiple reminder – yes.

      Clear and punchy – yes.

      Thank you.

      I will write more from this moment, always.

      • I love what you say, Roger: “I will write more from this moment, always”. YEAH!

    • Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I can’t say it enough…….this is not a blog post. It’s a manifesto!

      • Oh great! I’m so happy this post is getting such a warm welcome 🙂


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