Ever since I started my blog earlier this year I’ve struggled with finding balance between creating great writing and producing quick content. My background is in Marketing and I originally started my blog as an instrument for web design, practicing SEO tactics, and eventually making money. Since blogging I’ve meet other bloggers and learned why they started. For example, one friend has a background in journalism and started writing stories about her crazy everyday encounters on the train in D.C. Another friend of mine from high school just started blogging about her weigh loss journey through gastric bypass surgery. Both blogs are well written and very personal.
I want to take my writing to the next level so it will be more interesting to my readers. My first step in becoming a better writer was attending a course at the local branch of the public library. The course was called Writing Tight: Developing Compelling Memoir Vignettes and was instructed by Judah Leblang who’s a writer, teacher and storyteller from Boston. During this all-day workshop, my instructor shared some good advice on writing short story memoirs, overcoming writer’s block, and becoming more aware of what’s around you.
With this post I want to share a few tips on how to improve your writing, finding new topics to write about, and ways to jump start your creativity. Later on I’ll share with you a checklist of things to ask yourself when editing your work.
How to get the creative juices flowing
Just start writing! Take 30 minutes a day to sit down and put pen to paper. Don’t worry about the topic or if it goes anywhere. This exercise is to get use to writing on a daily bases. And usually the more you do something, the better you get at it.
To start you off here are three sentences. Each will provoke a different narrative in your mind. Write them down on a piece of paper or in your notebook. Then spend about 10 minutes on each writing a story from there.
- I was short on time and asked for help on breakfast.
- Anxiety is the great riddle of my life.
- I haven’t exercised in three days. I feel fat and my back is killing me.
Even if these starter sentences don’t lead to anything worth publishing, it gets your mind thinking creatively. This well help when you feel like there’s nothing to write about.
How to improve your own writing
During my course the instructor gave great tidbits on ways to improve your writing. I think these tips can help whether you’re just starting out or are already a published author.
- Observe everything. Writers don’t judge or interpret. They simply record what happened and who was there.
- There are only so many human emotions. Get the details down and fill in the rest.
- When explaining start small and give detail. Then zoom out (show the big picture) and zoom back in.
- You can’t edit and write at the same time. First drafts are going to be messy.
- In writing memoir’s it’s the movement towards wisdom that counts.
- If you’re not passionate about what you’re writing it will come across to your readers that way. The higher the emotional stakes are, the better.
- Use your story to connect to a larger universal truth.
I was always so concerned with having my first draft perfect. The process of editing didn’t even cross my mind. I would get held up on making one sentence or paragraph perfect before moving on to the next. By writing this way I would loose my train of thought and it took me days (sometimes weeks) to get a final draft. Which brings me to my next point!
Eight questions to ask yourself as you edit
- Does your opening get right to the subject if the post?
- Does the first paragraph set up accurate expectations for the rest of the post? If it doesn’t, cut it.
- Get to the point. Is your writing specific and concrete? Don’t get too flowery. Cut all adjectives and adverbs that don’t give essential information.
- Does something happen in your post? Is there at least one specific incident?
- Is there specific feeling or emotion in your post? Are your emotional steaks high?
- Is there a theme, conclusion or point to your post?
- Is there a new awareness or change at the end – Even if it’s the awareness of things not changing?
- How does your post sound if read aloud? Often your ear can pick up mistakes your eyes miss.
Editing is where craft and structure begin. Try to keep your writing between 600 and 900 words. This will force you to stay on topic and is the optimal length for search engine optimization.
Here are my key takeaways from last weeks course:
- Create a voice. This may take awhile, but the more you write you’ll start to get a feel for it. Find what’s most comfortable for you. Write the way you speak and let it come naturally.
- Start a conversation. Don’t be afraid to state your own opinion. Blogging is all about being social, so you want to start a conversation and get people interacting with each other.
- Tell a story. Anything that’s written with passion and emotion will strike a cord with your audience.
- Create short, realistic goals. Whether your writing a short story or and entire novel the task can seem daunting. Break it down into short easy to digest pieces. That way you can feel accomplished and keep moving forward.
I hope you found this article helpful. I definitely walked away from the class feeling more confident to write. Now I have the tools I need to overcome writer’s block, get a process down and engage my readers more.