12 tips for good writing
"Writing is like seducing. Seduction has a lot to do with speaking gracefully. If not, why do so many couples who begin dining together end in bed? To write well you must learn to use it well. The secret is to practice a lot. We must learn to hear the rhythm." - Stephen King
This must be the top 1 advice for writers who find pleasure on writing, and pass their knowledge on amateurs.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. But surprisingly enough, I’ve never set a goal or a challenge like a minimum amount of words to write everyday. Just like when we do “New Year’s Resolutions” (70% of them which I never happen to resolute), I could challenge myself to write 1,000 words daily. Minimum. That seems pretty doable, right?
I am laughing now… because as far this lines go, Word has corrected me 3 times already the word “write”. Because as I am typing so fast the laptop’s keyboard, I am misspelling “write” all the time. Like “wrte” or “wrtie”. How am I ever going to be a (good, or decent) writer if I cannot spell write correctly?
Anyway, we always want to do what we’re forbidden to do or what is somewhat a challenge for us. If you’re in this club, welcome. If not, I’m sure there’s no much time left for you to join us.
I am telling you right now: this is a long post. So if you’re watching Game of Thrones, Suits or Breaking Bad, start loading the episode right now, because by the time you’re done reading this, you may have the whole episode ready for you. So you’re welcome.
The thing is… I struggle while writing. Not writing words. I mean, connecting ideas and having something good enough to publish it in this blog. I can spend whole days working in this blog, concentrating on finding valuable information and inspiration for this blog… but while doing this, I stop writing. It’s automatic.
But delving into the time that has passed, I start to understand my absence.
Have you ever encountered the situation where you’re extremely busy and with a tight schedule, but you’re able to manage to get most of the “things-to-do” list done?
So until last week, I had this feeling of absolute programming my days. But I left for a mini-holidays to l’Empordà, near Girona. And I totally disconnected. Don’t misunderstand this. I love working for the blog. I don’t get any monetary compensation. But right now, you should already know that money is not the thing that drives me the most. What truly drives me is auto-realization. The feeling of doing something meaningful for some people.
Even Maslow recognized this need in top of his pyramid. I wrote “his” because the pyramid, as the name indicates, is Maslow’s theory. That’s it: just a theory. And I partially agree with his theory, because above all, we’re all humans and individuals who have different goals and desires. Sure we’re animals who need to get the basic needs satisfied (hunger). But apart from that, there’s a wide range of possibilities for human desires and needs.
Going back to the central topic, while at my mini-holidays, I read a lot. A whole lot: books, blogs, news, articles, etc.
I finished two books. The Bell Jar, which was way too depressing for me. However, the next day I watched the movie about the author, Sylvia with Gwyneth Paltrow as the main character. And I started to appreciate the book more. But just after the last line of the book I swear I was completely wrecked and a hot mess.
The other book was better: The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair. Mind blowing. If you haven’t read it already: do it. It’s suitable for all readers. It has romance, intrigue, comedy… and very subtle dialogues. And if you want to be a writer: this is also your book. I couldn’t help myself but tweet some of the quotes from the book while reading it. It was THAT good.
The history behind the plot, it’s nicely narrated by some of Harry’s writing tips. Harry is a famous writer whose student Marcus is writing the book. And all Harry’s writing tips, were the ones who pushed me to write more these days. But it was humanly impossible. I kept reading and reading. Therefore, I ended up without writing a single word.
Well, I tried to write 1,000 words daily. But nothing related to the blog (personal branding, self-awareness…) it was more like a fiction writing. Would you like to read it someday? Anyway, there’s no important story happening there. Because it’s just 1,000 words long. Maybe I’ll keep it for the future… maybe for my future novel.
So today’s topic it’s about how to start writing. How to develop that idea that’s been on your mind for days. How to make the appropriate steps and starting with effort and motivation. And to beat that boundary successfully.
But just so you know… writing it’s difficult mainly because of the obstacles you set up in your own mind ;)
With that being said, here’s a list to start writing again, or for your the first time ever:
1. Start writing something you wish to communicate to the world. Then you’ll be ready to start your story to connect with your readers. But after those lines, you must get to an ending point. To the main idea you wanted to discuss in that post. Or in that book. Go directly to the topic. Think about Stephen King’s books. They all begin directly to the point.
If you write, it’s because you have something to communicate. You have something to share. You want people to get the idea you’re writing.
This works either for an article, a book, a post or a twitter status. The topic.
2. Achieve this by writing from the general, to the specific. Start with a broad issue, and with a story -if possible- so that readers can relate to it and instantly get hooked by your writing. Give them a general concept. Differentiate by having your own style when writing, with your own voice. These are a couple of books you can look at for learning more about this.
3. Get personal. When you’re writing the specific part, there’s no need for you to write exactly your most private life. But you could, at least, share some things from your daily life.
There’s a blogger that does this amazingly well: Penelope Trunk. Until now, I’ve never read anything like her blog. There’s no one who writes with the same honesty as her when it comes to sex, parental abuse, partner issues and mental health. She’s able to communicate how challenging is to educate your own children, and how she was sexually abused by her parents. And she does it in the most elegant and natural way possible. Fucking amazing.
I think I’d never be able to do that. But I can share that I never make my bed. I don’t like to wear makeup (just because I am a disaster applying it, no matter how many Youtube tutorials I’ve watched). I have some kind of a mental disorder for books: I just can’t get enough of them: I can spend hours and hours in a bookstore, and buy 1 or 2 books, and then walk across another one, and enter again to spend more time looking at spines & book covers. I am very disorganized. But I can manage to find everything. That’s as far as I am going to go.
4. Imagine your audience. Think about 5 people for instance. They won’t be all the same, of course. They will all have different ways of thinking and they’ll carry different lifestyles. But surprisingly enough, they will all connect with your writing. You’ll be surprised how well your writing gets once you imagine the people you’re writing for.
I used to start diaries. But they all are absolutely boring and depressing: “dear diary, today I feel a little sad. I don’t know why. Maybe I could go outside for a walk since I’ve been all morning inside my room. I probably should do that. But then I’d have to change my clothes. F* that.” Depressing, isn’t it? That doesn’t change much if I keep writing for myself.
That’s why I love writing a blog: because there’s people who is going to invest their time on what I write. Therefore, I am constantly working on the content I am writing.
In other words, what’s more challenging and interesting, is to write for everyone else but me. That way, I am forcing myself to write something that is good enough for others to read.
5. Write every single day. The same sentence I started today’s post. And it’s absolutely true. Because without practice, you won’t be able to connect phrases, ideas and become successful overnight. Maybe you’re an outsider, and you achieve this without any effort.
But everything takes practice. Even if you’re an outsider. As Malcolm Gladwell writes in his books: we must invest 10.000 hours working on something (better if it’s our passion) to become the best, the top experts in our field. And I am fully committed on becoming a better writer. So if I have to write daily to become at least, some kind of expert, be it my pleasure.
So from now on, I am committing to this project: writing 1,000 words everyday. Just as Stephen King suggests in his book On writing.
I’ll write things for my blog. Or for a future fiction novel. Or for myself. Whatever, but I am not giving up this habit. This passion of mine that has only brought me happiness since I started it.
6. Answer the question you brought up. For example, in today’s post, I am exposing that I want to enhance my writing skills & routine, because I’d like to be a writer someday. Or at least get articles or books published. Because at the end of the day, who are the writers? In what moment does somebody become a writer?
7. Editing is key. Edit your text and erase any redundant sentences. Your readers and yourself will appreciate it. Your readers don’t have all their time for you. Stephen King says that success in his books lies in eliminating the 10% of the novel’s 1st draft. So he is able to get to the point quickly in his novels, dragging you into the story.
8. Take care of the details. Review them cautiously. I am a total disaster doing this: I have to force myself to do that while I write. Stephen King recommends reading out loud the text that one has written to hear if it’s okay. Our mind sometimes tricks us. To be honest, I think faster than I write, and this can be tricky because it leads to misunderstanding sentences. And my editors (aka my parents) are puzzled by words without a meaning. And this is frustrating, for them and for me.
I am lucky enough to have my parents as editors (and correctors) who review all my writings before publishing them. Instead of the English ones. So I hope I am not committing huge mistakes right now.
I am graceful for having them: they’ve not only educated me and given me everything in life, but they’ve also given me every single opportunity to success, and to get what I truly wanted. All families are weird in their own way, otherwise they wouldn’t be a family. But as my mother says, I have an “angel” who guards me. Because I am too lucky.
I am agnostic, so I don’t believe in these kind of things. For now. But I do feel blessed for everything I have. And I am fucking scared because I feel as if someday this is going to even. And that would mean terrible things happening from now on. Keep the good luck coming, angel.
9. Read a lot. Fiction, novels, non-fiction. Whatever. Newspapers, blogs or fashion magazines. If you can read everything, it’s perfect. But don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t let reading lose your writing. As I said before, due to my latest reading issue, I stopped writing. That’s bad. I was procrastinating the only habit that makes me feel happy. I feel miserable the day I do not write. At least, when I write I feel like I am nurturing myself. So I need to stay healthy: and I have to write.
I’ve recently read On Writing by Stephen King. It’s been long since I first wanted to buy it. When I was 14 (8 years ago) I discovered Stephen King. And I read most of his books without any other author’s influence in between. This only happened to me with three authors: Isabel-Clara Simó, Stephen King y Malcolm Gladwell.
10. Get rid of any distractions. Internet is the biggest one, don’t fool yourself. Even though you have to check for information or data in Google, or translate anything, stay away from it. Try to not connect to internet while writing. Start to write all the thoughts that come to your mind. Even the questions and the checks you want to make through Internet, because that way, you’ll have them listed and you can start looking for the answers after investing certain time writing.
It’s more efficient and you’ll feel better, as all the job that you just did did not took that long to get done. So try not to open Internet while writing, because you’ll end up checking Facebook, Youtube or Twitter. And you know it.
11. Publish frequently. Not only writing daily will enhance your practice as a writer, but also publishing frequently. Thus, you’ll have motivation to write for. There’s thousands, hundreds and millions of blogs in the Internet that create traffic. But only a few (less than 20%) last for more than 60 days. Consistency is key to success.
I haven’t learned this only by writing. In fact, my first boss during an Internship in Amsterdam taught this to me. She consistently repeated this sentence to me. Every day. And the more I think about it, the more I thank her for being the boss she was.
This way, you will not only get the habit to write. But also you’ll train your brain to generate new ideas. Ideas that you can nurture and develop further in the future, so that you will provide new and fresh content for your readers. My failures with this blog: not posting frequently enough. That happened to me twice. And the feeling it’s far from being awesome.
But by learning this, I realized I don’t want my blog to end up in the Secret Cementery of Forgotten Blogs. Like the one in The Shadow of the Wind… that’s why I force myself to write daily. So that I can train my mind.
12. Lastly, you should consider writing as creating art. It’s a perfection process, in continuous improvement.
Maybe you don’t like everything you write since the beginning. That’s completely fine. I didn’t like my stuff either. But that’s what it’s all about: realizing that we can always get better. And congratulate yourself for getting better and better each time. Tomorrow it will be better than today. And that’s exciting.
But remember, that you cannot get any better if you don’t have anything to compare it to. That’s why you must now. Start with something. To get you to the point you aim for. You are the only one who is hindering your dream of becoming a writer.
– The world is full of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
– Art is what we do when we are truly alive.
– Art is threatening because it always forces you to leave the comfort zone and get ahead of the unknown.
– Pain is part of life. Art is the story of life.
– Finding the right answer is the enemy of art.