What Helps YOU Be A Better Writer?

    Photo by MontanaRaven

    By Mary Jaksch

    As writers, we’re always trying to improve. Well, at least I am. Maybe you’re already perfect…

    I’d like us all to collect a list of everything that helps us to become a better writer.

    Please write in the comments what helps you, or what has helped you in the past!

    Mary Jaksch is Editor-in-Chief at Write to Done. Grab her FREE report How to Write Like an A-List Blogger. Mary has helped thousands of students successfully create outstanding and profitable blogs at A-List Blogging and is the blogger behind Goodlife ZEN.

    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.

    • 1) Write every day, even if it’s just 100 words of crap. At worst, you’re exercising the muscles. At best, once you start, enthusiasm and inspiration will come.

      2) Read a lot. If it’s good, enjoy it, and then re-read and try to work out whether there’s anything you can copy for your own writing. If it’s bad, try to work out why it’s bad.

      3) Relax and enjoy, at least for the first draft. Sometimes the “just playing around” stuff turns out better than the stories you sweat blood over. If not, you might be able to fix it later.

    • be your worst critic dont use “million dollar words”
      exemple: ether would be better left as sky

    • Kabamba says:

      In my personal life, engage 100% with the things i write about.

    • Mike Low says:

      1. Setting my own writing challenges. Such as writing 1 article on a specific topic per day for 30 days.

      2. Reading other people’s writing and taking note of what I like and what I don’t like.

      3. Recognizing writing techniques or tricks other writers use and then deliberately writing an article to practice those techniques.

      To name a few.

      • Stella says:

        I like your ideas. Writing an article to practe the techniques and tricks you just learned.
        Thank you for sharing with me.

    • Various things:

      * Enthusiasm (you can’t write well if your writing bores you)

      * Mind mapping (on and off my computers)

      * Reading (I usually read three to five books a week)

      * Refining my writing processes so that I’m always having fun (this often includes buying tools just for fun, like a Livescribe pen and Wacom tablet)

      * Listening to my intuition

      * Blogging

      Great question. 🙂

    • Marion says:

      Tying myself to the chair.

    • Karen says:

      Accountability–A person or deadline holding my feet to the fire. When our critique group holds two-week challenges where we set our own personal daily word count goals, I find I am most consistent in cranking out the words. And they’re usually not half bad.

    • Larry says:

      Having just finished an ebook on this same topic (which has 101 tips for novelists and screenwriters), it’s hard to pick a favorite. One of my favs is “every scene should have a succinct mission” (Tip #96). Knowing what the scene needs to accomplish, and focusing (without burdening it with too many things to do) allows the art of setting it to emerge and flourish.

    • Randy Muirhead says:

      Keeping a note pad close, at all times. That way when a topic skips through my noodle I can write it down for future writing. Otherwise, i will forget it and when I go to look for it, I can’t find it.

    • Kate Marie says:

      Someone once told me to cut every third word. This impossible task forces you to evaluate each word for conciseness and clarity. Agonizing, but incredibly useful.

      I write very short pieces, so the three-word cut is easier for me than a novelist 🙂

    • Janice G says:

      The more I write, the more I enjoy writing.
      The more I see my words actually meaning something to others, the more encouraging it is, and the more I am motivated to improve my writing skills.
      I now lead a small local writers group, and I can see the same growth cycle working in other new writers.

    • Wow, there is some fantastic input in the comments. Thank you for asking this question!

      I think the biggest echo amongst the comments is “To Write!”

      I find it is true for myself as well. Writing helps me be a better writer. Getting my butt into the chair and beginning is the single most improving act. Every time I do it I move forward.

      But other things that help include reading, anything. Watching movies and good television series also help. Reading and watching with a writer’s eye gives me a chance to see the craft involved, the way a story is told, the formulaic way every story has basic elements and how they cohesively fit together.

      Socializing with other writers would be the third. Surrounding myself with other writers, watching their progress, feeling envy or pride, having colleagues to share the experience with and friends who help fire my motivation or encourage my confidence. Writing is often a lonely act so reconnecting with others outside of the actual writing process is vital.

    • Larry says:

      Thought of another one: deconstructing novels and books I admire. Actually charting them out, creating a flow chart and then juxtaposing it against the known standards of story architecture. It’s interesting to see how sometimes the major plot points come off as subtle in the finished work, even subtle enough to miss, yet they fulfill all the criteria for an effective plot point when viewed in context to the overall flow.

      Of course, if one doesn’t understand story architecture and its underlying criteria then this would be an exercise in… well, flowcharting. Learning it has been the most useful and illuminating tool I’ve ever encountered as a writer.

      Too many writers handle story architecture intuitively. Which is like doing heart surgery or flying an airliner by intuition. Survival rates are low, better to go to ground/med school and see how it really works, I think.

    • Caroline says:

      Reading about writing has helped me a lot. Write to Done is a great resource (I stop by regularly), and a book called Writing to Deadline by Donald Murray has been a real help to me.

      And can I just say what a wonderful list everyone has compiled above? Wow! Thank you for such a simple question, but such marvellous answers.

    • Lori Hoeck says:

      Start with metaphors and stories.
      Approach writing with gratitude, not with a “must do this” attitude.

    • There is no greater teacher than living life

    • feelings and inspirations

    • Fran Macdonald says:

      Write en plein air. In other words, write at the scene. If you want to write about a beach, get a picnic rug and go write by the sea. If you’re writing a scene set in a bar, go to that bar and write the scene there. Go to the place you’re writing about wherever it is – the supermarket, the ball game, the class room, the building site. Describe all the sensuous detail, the atmosphere, the people there, anything you observe. When you get home, you’ll discover at least one gem you wouldn’t have thought of just by imagining being there. That gem will lift your writing to a new level.

    • Lake says:

      Great comments, writers. What helped me most has not been the actual act of placing words on pages, but rather the decision to break out of my comfort zone and embrace all the new experiences that came my way. Once life became about exploring the unknown, including the dark places, the writing became much easier. I used to get stuck. Now I have too many ideas to let a day go by without playing with them.

    • Work out your best writing time of the day for you, and use it. Early morning works for me… there’s just something beautiful and quiet about that hour.

      Also, I adore Julia Cameron’s book “Letters to a Young Artist”

    • Lorraine says:

      Many great suggestions. I also find it helpful to:

      1. Write during my most productive hours of the day.
      2. Designate time to research, muse, mindmap and outline–then stop. It’s too easy for me to procrastinate about starting the draft.
      3. Map out a daily writing schedule for each project and stick to it. If I finish early one day, great. If I have to work late into the night the next day, I do it–but I stay on schedule.
      4.If I can’t stop procrastinating, I tell myself I only need to work for an hour–and I use a real hour glass to measure the time!
      5 Cut, revise, edit and when in doubt, “kill my darlings.”
      6. Send the final draft to a professional proofreader before submitting it.
      7. Take time to read challenging literature that feeds the soul, rather than perusing only blogs, copywriting and trade articles.
      8. Read Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” at least once a year.

    • Being a member of a writing group has been my best improvement tool. Writers need to journal, to read, to experiment, and to learn what makes good writing good. But if you don’t get feedback on what you’ve written, then you’re only guessing if what you’re writing is effective. That’s where your writing group comes in. Some people call them critique groups, but that word is misleading. Writing groups offer support, encouragement, and feedback–all necessary for us lonely writers to get better at what we do. Join one if you can, and form one if you can’t find one.

    • Aron Sora says:

      Read everything aloud
      Write everyday
      Read other bloggers
      Conduct post-writing, check logic structure
      Check if your assumptions are right

    • thejodi says:

      From Anne LaMotts *Bird by Bird* – the permission to write a shitty first draft. Changed my world.

    • Thinking of brilliant headlines for my articles. Always a good starting point.

    • Joilene says:

      People watching. If you don’t know how to sort people out, and understand a bit of their minds from their actions, you can’t work with characters and make them believable. And all stories have characters – not just fictional ones.

      Get to know someone different from you, and take time to reflect on the experience. Don’t be afraid to try new ideas or hobbies – the more variety you have in your own life, the more likely you are to keep on generating good ideas on the page.

      Read all sorts of writing – poetry, prose, and everything in between. Learn to like some of what you didn’t before, by learning how to understand it and analyze it: why does it work (or not)?

      Read works from different cultures. This helps keep your own writing (and your character’s motives and lifestyles) from tasting stale in the mouths of your readers. It forces you to re-think what is “normal”. It allows you to take a perfectly common act, and color it more brightly.

    • Natural says:

      reading. being around other people. listening and looking at things from a different prospective.

    • My name is Nick and I’m a multitasking junkie.

      I’m still working on developing my basic writing skills.

      What seems to help me is setting a timer, generally an hour. I close every thing on my computer, set the timer and focus on what I’m writing. When the timer goes off, I take a break. This has proven to be effective for me.

    • Suzannah says:

      “Scrivener” definitely helps. I am far too disorganized without it.

      Also, looking back at my previous lame writing attempts always makes me feel like I’m on the right track. It motivates me to get even better.

    • Cynthia says:

      Keeping it simple.

    • 1. Writing every day, whether it is for my weekly column, other works in progress, to clear mental cobwebs or just to play with words on the page.
      2. Letting my articles rest because I return to them with fresh eyes.
      3. Re-reading my work,using TextAloud and editing ruthlessly.
      4. Commenting on my favorite blogs.
      5. Reading, especially books about writing and the writing life.
      6. Journaling because it helps me sort out my thoughts and feelings
      about the self-improvement and lifestyle topics I write about.

    • Kezia says:

      Some good comments here already: in essence, I think most writers are held back by themselves. Recognise your fear and learn to overcome it – http://www.fairheadcreative.co.uk/blog/writing-living-imperfection

    • Kat Eden says:

      It sounds so simple but the thing that works best for me is this – simply making it a priority. By this I don’t mean just deciding that my writing is important to me, I mean ensuring that it’s the first thing I work on in the morning. I find it so tough to go straight to writing and bypass the emails, but the results when I do so are nothing short of wonderful.

      Not only can I start the day with a solid 60-90 minutes of work under my belt, it seems to influence and strengthen every other aspect of my performance throughout the coming hours.

      My other rule is to just keep squeezing out words even when I feel uninspired. I used to think writing was all about waiting for the muse, but that attitude got me nowhere! Writing is like any other job – if you want to get ahead, you gotta do it even when you absolutely can’t be bothered.

    • Don Bates says:

      Writing for publication no matter how good or bad you are. Once published, you’ll never turn back. You’ll work ever harder at becoming a better writer and you will become exactly that within the limits of your talent. Publication fuels ego, confidence, ideas, desire, commitment, and requests for more submissions — often assignments for pay! Write for publication even if it’s only in a local newsletter or blog. Your writing and you will be better for it.

    • Reading great writing from great writers, that’s inspiring.

      Experiencing other forms of art — music, athletics, dance, sculpture — is also inspiring, since it all evokes the human spirit.

      Reading my old stuff… acknowledging how far I’ve come… realizing how far I have to go.

    • Reading my manuscripts aloud. If I stumble over a clunky or confusing sentence or a description doesn’t pop out as intended (without using similes) – it’s very likely that readers will encounter the same problems. No one wants the reader to say HUH?

      Word count? When in doubt – cut it out.

      Avoid passive voice & make your words count.

      Good weekend all – JaxPop

    • Forrest says:

      1. Simple declarative sentences.
      2. Limited adjectives and adverbs.
      3. Practice, practice, practice.

    • 1. Learn to write without distractions (Multitasking not allowed).
      2. Reading my writing out loud (taught in basic college ENG class).
      3. Another set of eyes (allow someone you trust to proof your work).
      4. Know and write down core content/ideas as soon as possible.
      5. Learn to write without added pressure/ nervousness (start ahead of time, not a day before your deadline.

      *Clear thinking will lead to clear writing*

      Also, take the time to read books on writing, and listen to podcast on writing tips but don’t let this replace the action of writing. Practice brings improvement. Keep plugging away! You’ll get there. 🙂 Cheers!


    • Write all the time. Read more often. Listen. Talk to people. Never read people that are worse than you.

      Speak your mind.

    • Audrey says:

      I read, constantly. Fiction or non-fiction, online and offline. Then after emerging from the well of thoughts, I write and rewrite until it makes sense…and then I fearfully put it out there for feedback.

    • David Smith says:

      Do lots of quicker, focused iterations on a draft, instead of one or two “mega edits.”
      – David

    • ChrisB says:

      Stephen King’s rule: Go back and cut 10% from your word count.

    • Ali Hale says:

      As with anything … practice helps!

      Having said that, it’s hard to improve in a vacuum. I’ve definitely become a better writer not just from writing, but from showing my writing to others and seeking feedback.

    • I read quite a bit of both fiction and creative writing “self-help.” By switching off between the two I can both learn styles and tricks that I wasn’t aware of before and get an opportunity to see them in practice.

      If I find myself unable to concentrate on the main work at hand (which I often do, something else I need to work on) I make sure I’m getting some sort of writing in, usually in the form of either microfiction or short exercises I call my “1000+ exercises,” where I think up a simple premise and try to write at least a thousand words on it. It’s yielded a few decent short stories.

    • Mom2Fab5 says:

      reading, thinking, reading, writing, ponder, write and more reading

    • What helps me the most is WRITING. The more I write, the better I am at it. Another thing that really helps me out is READING. The more I read, the more I learn about writing. Can’t wait to see what helpful hints everyone else offers up! 🙂

    • Oke says:

      1. Write every day.
      2. Learn new words by learning a word a day and clipping words one doesn’t know in a novel, magazine, on the web, wherever.
      3. Write in different elements: essays, short stories, blog post, poems, photo writing, it doesn’t matter. Get the pen or fingers moving.
      4. Type and Write. I have noticed that typing is the way words flow out of me, but writing things out can help provide a peculiar feel to the process.
      5. Read grammar books.
      6. Ask people to critique your work.
      7. Read many books. The good and the shitty ones. One will learn something from both, might actually learn more from the crap pile.
      8. Challenge yourself. Write for 30 minutes a day, increase to an hour a day. Write on the toilet, write in a crowded tea shop, write for 24 hours straight!
      9. Take a trip. Road trips, beach trip, a walk down the beach, can bring out your writing.
      10. Watch movies. Can learn how someone presents a story on motion picture. Can give the writer a chance to see it from a far-end point of view. Can you write the story better?

    • Taking a break from my current WIP between drafts–seeing it after writing something else helps give me a fresh perspective.

    • janice says:

      To write well, we have to live well. We have to be open, curious, present and engaged and fill our lives with as much passion and purpose as we can. We have to be bold, vulnerable and authentic, and write – and read – like we’re consuming soul food. Deep down, we have to believe that what the world needs from us is our passion, the thing that makes us feel truly alive, the way we filter the world, love the learning and pass it on. There is a holy triangle between reader, writer and the thing that’s written; write as if connecting with that one person who’s blessing you with their rapt attention is all that exists in that moment. People connect through spirit. It doesn’t matter what you write or how you write; connection and co-creating sensation are crucial.

      Thanks, Mary.Who’d have thought such a simple wee request could stir up so much passion before lunch!

    • Writing every day and reading classic literature

    • hustler says:

      Outlining. And then writing to that outline, edit and edit again.

    • Bailish says:

      Reading my writing over and over, until I can’t find any more problems. Then showing it to a trusted friend, who shows me a few things I could improve.

    • felice says:

      Accept all forms of criticism and learn to grow from it.

    • Kelly says:

      Word limits! Even if self-imposed, having a concrete reason to look for chaff to sieve out really helps me tighten up the writing.

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