For New Writers: 3 Power Tips for Becoming a More Better Writer
Yeah, I know. That’s not the most grammatically perfect headline you’ve ever read. In fact, I’m sure that my high school English teacher would be rolling her eyes and throwing her hands up in disbelief, thinking she’d taught me better. Bless her heart! Nevertheless, if you’ve read this far, then that horrid headline has done its primary job: getting your attention.
The three power tips in this article are not concerned so much with improving your writing skills as they are with refining your abilities as a writer. Confused yet? There are boatloads of resources out there to turn you into a perfect punctuationalist or a proficient grammaratician. Some are listed below.
However, this article doesn’t deal with syntax and structure, adverbial clauses, comma splices or even the dreaded dangling marsupial, uh, participle. These tips are meant to improve your confidence level as a writer and, consequently, to transform you into a better one.
The Power of Association
John Donne, the English clergyman and poet, wrote this about the human condition in his work, Meditation XVII:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less . . .
The entire passage, written in 1624, tells of the interconnectedness of people, the idea that each of us has an integral part in the overall community that is humanity. Even you!
Heavy stuff, huh?
Interconnectedness spills over into the world of freelance writing as well. We aren’t monks sequestered away in our candlelit cubicles, slaving away with parchment, quill and ink, feverishly hand-crafting some obscure tome.
Unfortunately, many new writers feel that they must work alone, devoid of human contact, as they attempt to master their craft. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s time to get off the island, my friend.
Successful writers know that association with other writers is vital to growth. No one person knows it all, but we can all grow together by hanging out with others of our own ilk. In the classic 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill outlines the Master-Mind principle used by Andrew Carnegie.
In a nutshell, the melding of minds and sharing of ideas leads to an entity that is greater and more powerful than the individuals alone. Each person’s talents and knowledge contributes to the whole of the experience.
Man, heavy stuff again!
As a new writer, you should start associating with other writers. You can learn from both their successes and their challenges, get some counseling and ask them your burning questions. In fact, you’ll have a great opportunity to do that in a few minutes. At the end of this article there will be a place to make comments.
Many new writers never add a comment, often afraid of looking stupid or uninformed. Understand that the comments section is a safe haven in which to ask questions, request clarification and share your own experiences. Really, you need to write a comment! We need to hear from you!
Remember that you are a piece of the continent too.
I’d suggest that you become part of a writers’ group as well. Three that I belong to and recommend are:
- The Freelance Writers Den This a group geared toward helping freelancers perfect their craft.
- The Writers’ Huddle Here’s a place to hang out with all kinds of writers, fiction and non-fiction. These writers’ sites have great lessons and seminars to help you improve.
- The Writer’s Digest This site contains information for every type of writer.
My favorite part has always been the community forum. You can ask questions, get advice and have your work critiqued. Join a group and learn to ask questions, no matter how silly you think they sound. Understand that the only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked!
If you don’t know, then you need to ask!
We’ve all been there and still are. I may have gray hairs (and less of them than yesterday), but I can still learn from anyone. New writers are especially invaluable to me; they remind me of the basics and get my writing back on track.
Joining a writers’ association is an investment in your writing and yourself.
The Power of Investing In Yourself
You need to invest in other tools that will improve your mechanical writing skills as well. To start with, there are just three things you really need: a place to sit, something to write with, and an educated brain from which to pull your ideas. The first two are easy, so let’s concentrate on the third one.
You need to invest in items that will improve the mechanics of your writing. In a word: books. Books on grammar and punctuation should be in your library. I would suggest:
- The Blue Book of Grammar by the late Jane Straus, available in most bookstores.
- The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need by Susan Thurman, also available in bookstores.
- The current edition of The Associated Press Stylebook, a must-have if you intend to write news articles and similar pieces. You can purchase it online; however, check your local college or university bookstore. I got mine cheaper there.
Purchase instructional books and e-books and take classes from successful writers in the fields of writing that interest you. You can take classes ranging from the craft of writing to the business of freelancing, both online and offline. They are well worth the price of admission. Here are a few I would suggest if you want to be a copywriter:
- The 4 Week J-School with Linda Formichelli and Carol Tice. By the way, homework is involved!
- The Freelance Writer’s Class from Daily Writing Tips. Sign up for the newsletter while you’re at it.
- AWAI’s 6 Figure Copywriter course. Lots of good material throughout the site.
- Just about anything written by Bob Bly, America’s copywriter. I have six of his books.
Free newsletters are offered by all of these resources. Note: If you are signed up for too many newsletters you can get overloaded. Keep only the subscriptions you actually read.
There are many more great informational resources out there as well. Which ones do you need? Well, you could start by asking for advice in a forum or blog comment section. And remember that while free can be good, it’s not always best. Ask someone who’s been there if it’s worth your time.
Sometimes you really do need to spend money to make money. But spend it wisely.
The Power of Prolific Writing
The more you write, the better you get. I’m not going to tell you how much you need to write, just that you need to write more. Even when you don’t have an order to fill or an article to spec, you need to write. It’s the only way to get ëmore better’ that I know. No pills, no creams, no magic potions.
Just write more.
Consider the humble pendulum. It swings back and forth, its arc getting smaller with each pass. Eventually the pendulum will come to rest at the center, sometimes moving slightly with the rotation of the earth. That, my friend, is your writing. Your writing will swing from the ridiculous to the sublime, back and forth, until it comes to rest on center.
And that center is you, your voice and your style.
Your writing may vary some with the ‘rotation’ of your clients, but it will remain close to center. The more you write, the faster you will find that center. So, how do you write more if you don’t have an order to fill or a submission to send out? Here are a few ideas for you:
- Start a fun blog on something you enjoy. Set a regular publishing schedule and maybe a word count for the post. This can be your first deadline! Be tough on yourself!
- Read articles in magazines or items in the newspapers. Hey, read the back of cereal boxes! You’ll find different styles of writing (some of which you should avoid!) and this will help you develop your own style. Rewrite the articles several times until they sound like you.
- Observe life around you and write about it. Go for a walk or a drive or take a day trip. Talk to people you meet. Write about your experiences and share it with a friend or family member. Get a little impromptu critique! Use different formats: a news article, a personal essay or a reported essay. You could even write it up as advertising copy. Get creative!
There you have it; three power tips to become a ‘more better’ writer. Now it’s your turn to jump off the island, climb onto the continent and post your questions, ideas and suggestions!
We would be the less without you!
Steve Maurer is a freelance writer in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He’s been writing for the Web since 2001, including articles, ad copy and blog posts for clients around the globe and in some small towns. You can contact him at http://www.maurer-copywriting.com .
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