Of course, I think it's impossible for anyone to narrow it down to just five tips, but here's my best attempt:
- Write first; revise later. Many writers think too much in the draft process (trying to make their first drafts perfect) when they should be writing. I believe in using outlines for fiction and nonfiction, but writers should let themselves get carried away with their writing as much as possible. Get your words on paper or on a screen, because you can make it perfect during revision.
- Show; don't tell. This is one of those golden rules of writing. If you have a character who is mad, don't write something like this: Joe was mad. Instead, show Joe's anger through his actions and/or dialogue. Maybe something like this: Joe slammed the door, stomped over to the couch and plopped down without looking at anyone.
- Start the story in the right place. Note: You may not know where the right place is until after you've completed the first, second, third, etc., drafts. I could give you a list of places not to start your story (such as in a dream sequence or right as someone wakes up for a normal, boring day), but then, you'll probably just try to prove me wrong. At least, that's what I'd do.
- Get a few trusted readers. This is very important. If you're the only person reading your writing, then you are working in a complete vacuum. Having a few trusted readers can help you identify trouble areas in your manuscript and even give you new ideas to incorporate into your writing. You don't have to incorporate all feedback, but it forces you to consider how others are reading your writing.
- Read. Whether writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc., it's important to read if you want to be a good writer. Plus, you should read everything--good and bad--that you can and identify why things work or don't work for you. Incorporate techniques used in poetry in your nonfiction; use nonfiction to find ideas for your fiction; etc.
Final Tip: Don't worry too much about the business and marketing side of things until you've spent a good deal of time writing. While the business side of things can be very important down the road, writers who want to build a career out of writing should put writing first. Your writing is your product and service; so make sure it's top notch before worrying about all that other stuff.
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Here are a few other posts for writers from this blog:
- SEO Tips for Writers, which covers the importance of SEO for writers, especially those who maintain a blog or website.
- Platform Building 101 for Writers, which covers the why and how of building a platform that connects with readers.
- Twitter Cheat Sheet for Writers, which covers, well, Twitter.
Ready to get writing? Make sure you have the right tools to get the job done: