Not everyone who writes for a living always enjoys writing. Writing can be a tedious and frustrating task: Staring at a blank screen, knowing what you want to write but being unable to call up the proper words. Canadian author Ann-Marie MacDonald says, “Writing is a hellish task, best snuck up on, whacked on the head, robbed, and left for dead.” What follows is some of the best advice I’ve received to make the writing process less hellish:
1. When you’re stuck, don’t keep staring at the screen. Take a break, and come back to it. 2. Write first; edit later. 3. Don’t bristle when another writer or editor corrects your work. Put your ego aside, analyze the feedback, and use it to improve your writing. 4. Read your work aloud. 5. Stop thinking in terms of how to draw people in. Today, your primary concern with your writing is not to drive people away. 6. “Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.” —Elmore Leonard 7. Writing informally is not dumbing down; it is writing so busy people can understand your content. 8. You can start a sentence with a conjunction. 9. Don’t be afraid to try new words. 10. Capitalizing certain words does not make them more important. 11. “Good writing consists of trying to use ordinary words to achieve extraordinary results.” —James Michener 12. Chose clear, active verbs instead of throwaway verbs, such as utilize, implement, leverage, and disseminate. 13. “The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.” —Stephen King 14. Outline. Outline. Outline. 15. “The fact is that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don’t want to do it, and you can’t think of what to write next, and you’re fed up with the whole damn business. Do you think plumbers don’t feel like that about their work from time to time? Of course there will be days when the stuff is not flowing freely. What you do then is MAKE IT UP.” —Philip Pullman
Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.com.