One of my best editors once told me to combat writer’s block, I just had to start writing.
The instructions were simple: Start anywhere in my story and put words down. Eventually, I’d have enough to sew my story together and come up with a full draft.
This was easier said than done. And once you’ve spent years writing and editing, putting into words how you do it is a complex brain exercise.
For 2017, we decided to tackle bad (and good!) writing habits — from the no-brainers to the must-dos.
Here’s what we came up with.
1. You need a map.
Being disorganized is so 2014. So do your editors a favor: Outline or map out what you’re writing, where you want to go with it, who you’d like to talk with, and your ideal goal. This could save you (or your editor) from having to rewrite your piece. Always keep your audience in mind. Your brain will thank you later for laying this foundation.
2. Short and sweet is a thing.
You risk losing readers when your writing style is long-winded. Clear and concise writing will keep eyeballs; rambling sentences and super-long paragraphs will not.
3. Don’t outsmart your audience.
You probably know at least one person who speaks way over everyone’s head. It’s much better to write like you speak — conversational writing will go the distance toward keeping readers’ attention. Over time, readers will look for your writing and start to engage over social media. This is a win.
4. Be yourself.
Similar to above with outsmarting your audience with your vocabulary or word choices, it can be easy to get lost in sounding like other people. Be yourself. Readers respect transparency and the writers they choose to follow. If you try to be someone you’re not, they’ll see right through it.
5. Enough with the thousands of quotes.
Yes, it’s important to back up your writing with sources. It’s equally important to name them and properly attribute their words without taking things out of context. But there’s a limit. It’s kind of like using too many hashtags — there is such a thing as too much. Not all quotes are created equal. Choose wisely the good things your subject(s) said, and don’t be afraid to paraphrase the rest.
6. Take the time to edit yourself.
Ideally, you read and reread how your writing has been edited. This is important. Over time, your mental notes on word usage and phrasing will become second nature as you write. Need more tips on how to edit yourself? Here are five tips (Hint: Consistency and active verbs.)
7. Get out of here.
Sometimes, you just need to shut down, switch off, and recharge. There are many writer residency programs that allow you to carry out writing projects while providing inspirational environments. Take a gander and see if it’s worth getting away.