Writer’s Boot Camp Week: 12 Tips to Becoming a Better Writer

Margaret —  April 19, 2013 — 14 Comments

Writer's Boot Camp: 12 Tips to Becoming A Better Writer

You’ve made it. Phew. Final day of Writer’s Boot Camp Week. [Tweet this]

I knew you could do it. All three of you who survived.

This week we’ve covered:

In today’s final post, I wanted to offer some practical tips on becoming a better writer. You may have heard some of these ideas or themes earlier this week. But here they are as a quick reference guide.

Remember that if you want to become a better writer, you must write—typos and all. [Tweet this]

Here are 12 tips to becoming a better writer: [Tweet this]

1. Everything hangs on your verbs. [Tweet this]

2. Have the courage to write badly, badly, badly, and the tenacity to rework, rework, rework until your writing is radiant. [Tweet this]

3. Buy the The Comedian (2002) on Amazon.com right now. This is my top pick for writer’s resource. [Tweet this] Starring Jerry Seinfeld (2002), the film depicts Seinfeld developing an entire routine from scratch. You’ll watch him agonize over the wording and pace of delivery, you’ll see him test each bit in comedy clubs and bars in no-name towns in order to develop a new routine. The movie exposes the craft of writing a comedy routine—which isn’t too different from the craft of writing a book.

4. Grab your readers attention five seconds ago. [Tweet this]

5. Know your muse. Identify those songs, books, and activities that ignite your creativity. [Tweet this] Lock them up in a chest and only pull them out when you need writing juice.

6. Read your work aloud. [Tweet this]

7. If you wake up at 3 am with a brilliant idea, do not roll back over and fall back to sleep. Pop out of bed. Write like a madman. Even if you remember the idea the next morning, it will never be the same as if you’d recorded it in the moment.

8. Instead of writing for everyone, select one specific person. Know the person’s strengths, weaknesses, triumphs, tragedies, needs, and dreams. Picture that person whenever you write. This is the secret to unifying your tone throughout the project.

9. Develop a minimum word count. Commit to writing 300, 500, 1000 or more words each day. Write them every day. Beginning today.

10. When you’re in a season of writing, feed your soul with only those things that are good, true, and beautiful.

11. Don’t be tricked: You must know the rules before you can break them well. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White is a writer’s Bible.

Writer’s Boot Camp Week: 12 Tips to Becoming a Better Writer

12. Everyone who criticizes your work contains a nugget of truth. Live like a gold miner. [Tweet this]

Thanks for joining me for Writer’s Boot Camp Week. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll organize a real life Writer’s Boot Camp. Until then, remember that I won’t be answering any more questions about writing (unless you have a checkbook—see “Why I Hate Talking About Writing”).

Stop. Drop. And give me 3. In the space below.

Give me THREE of your tips for becoming a better writer [Tweet this] in the space below as a comment on this blog post.

14 responses to Writer’s Boot Camp Week: 12 Tips to Becoming a Better Writer

  1. Absolutely (to echo you): capturing the thought as it comes at 3 am is key. Capturing the human story in the writing is key. Verbs not adverbs is key. Thanks for a great series.

  2. I’ve been with you all week, just not doing the hard work (those push-ups) — and that would be my first tip:
    1. Do the hard work. It’s too easy for me to post a light-hearted blog (or even a deeply spiritual one) and think I’ve done my writing for the day. It’s more difficult to flex my muscles and really WRITE.
    2. Don’t fall in love with your own writing. I have to remember it’s not my “baby”, it’s my craft and it will never be perfect. But it should be honest and worthy of my readers’ time.
    3. Find readers you trust and give them permission to inflict wounds, if it will make your writing better. My writing group does that for me and I mine their wisdom every chance I get.

  3. 1. Read books of the type you want to write. See what you like about them.
    Read the introduction and acknowledgements sections. They can give you good tips on how the author got the book written, and what help they needed.
    2. Follow your favorite authors on Twitter or Facebook or subscribe to their blog. You can get lots of writing tips there.
    3. Write often. Write letters to friends or to magazines. Write articles for online publication. Write a blog. These are all good practice.

  4. 1. I used to keep a pad by my bed for those 3am thoughts – now I use the notes feature on my phone – I’m more likely to get the thoughts down when I don’t have to get out of my warm bed to do it! 🙂

    2. When you feel blocked, write like you’re writing to a friend. Sharing what you would say to them in a conversational way can draw it out!

    3. God taught me at an early age that when there is truth in what someone is saying (even if it hurts), I need to hear it. That has helped me so much, both in life and in writing!

    Margaret, thank you for this boot camp. I feel equipped and challenged!

  5. 1. Use the spare moments. I often think I need a “chunk” of time to accomplish anything. Well, many days, that isn’t possible. But if I use my moments to jot down a sentence here, an idea there, I am still getting something accomplished.
    2. Use non-writing time to write. Madeleine L’Engle said she plotted novels while she was washing the dishes. Give your mind a job while your hands are busy. Then keep a pad of paper near the laundry area, the sink, etc.
    3. Fight distractions. For me, it’s the tendency to check e-mail, answer every text, do a quick Internet search (which sometimes turns into a rabbit trail). So turn your Internet off for awhile and put your phone in another room–and FOCUS.

  6. Read, read and read more, especially in the genre that you like to write.
    Write everyday, whether you feel like it or not.
    When doing chores (like cleaning or running errands), keep thinking about your story. Be creative and capture those great ideas in the notebook on your phone (or carry a notepad with you).
    Margaret, thanks for sharing all of your valuable information on writing. It has encouraged me to get moving on what God is calling me to do: write and do my best for Him!

  7. Thanks Margaret for doing this series even though it was painful, and for all your great tips on writing! You’re awesome!
    1. Reading makes you a better writer.
    1. Inspiration happens in the everyday events of life. Keep you eyes and ears open!
    2. Your best writing happens when you write about what you are passionate about!

  8. My tips for being a better writer?

    1. Research, research, research. Even for creative writing, there is research that ought to be involved in world-building, setting up the plot, and the setting. When you get the details right, you improve the ability of your reader to connect with you writing. Mess up the basic stuff because you didn’t do your homework, and you pull the reader out of the story. They lose their suspension of disbelief.

    2. Write what you will want to read. We are all not so unique as we’d like to believe– someone else will be interested in it, if you are passionate about it. But it’s hard to get someone interested in something you yourself are not.

    3. Read a lot. Read widely. Read books that you wouldn’t be interested in otherwise. Go to new places. Learn new things. Talk to new people. And then read some more. Learning and new experiences are the kindling that can ignite inspiration and great writing. And any good writer is first and foremost a great reader.

    I’ll shoot for some extra credit here and add a fourth:

    4. Break rules intelligently. Most writing advice is advice because it is helpful or true in one way or another, but it is not necessarily always helpful or true.

  9. 1) Read words that breathe life into you. The style, cadence and vibrance of what you read will shape how your words pour out.
    2) God likes you, He enjoys you, flaws and all.
    3) Don’t be so serious that the deposit of words God gave you get sucked into an abyss of perfectionism.

  10. Thank you for writing this week for us.

    1. Keep a notebook with you at all times to jot down ideas.
    2. Spend a good amount of time “just” writing, without editing as you go.
    3. Find a group of fellow writers for encouragement and critique.

  11. 1. write, write, write.
    2. TV is death to creativity. Unless you want to write for TV–then only watch really good TV and only intentionally. Don’t use it to drone out.
    3. Stop dreaming and start writing, even if it isn’t the “book” you think is inside you. Write articles, poetry, blogs. Any type of writing is good practice.

  12. Sheridan VoyseySheridan April 20, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Excellent tips, Margaret.

    Here’s tip number 13 to becoming a better writer: analyse a Kate Bush song, like this one – http://youtu.be/2YV4L-GT6oQ That woman knows how to craft a simile and a metaphor.

  13. Such a great series Margaret!
    I loved reading all your back issues.
    I am muddy and miserable in the writing process this very day so I wallowed in every word; sweated over the stinky realities of this “calling” and whined about the truth.
    Now, I will write. 1000 words to ONE person!
    Thank you and sweet blessings,

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