Becoming a Better Writer

Throughout this blog’s existence, I’ve shared everything from why reading is important to the problems with illiteracy, so today I thought I’d do something for my fellow writers out there, particularly the aspiring writers. Listed below, you’ll find some tips on how you can become a better writer. Please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with your own tips!

Punctuation, Grammar and Spelling

Pay attention to punctuation, especially to the correct use of commas and periods. These two punctuation marks regulate the flow of your thoughts; overusing them or not using them enough can make your writing confusing and jumbled. Also avoid wordiness. You’ll find yourself making fewer mistakes with fewer words. Cutting unnecessary adjectives is also helpful.

While spell-checking programs serve as a good tool, they should not be relied upon to detect all mistakes. As you finish each chapter or article, read and review what you have written for errors.

For grammar, it always helps to try reading the text aloud to see if it makes sense when spoken. If you’re not sure, you may use a grammar checker or ask for others’ opinions. If nothing else works, you can join a writing group or hire a writing coach.

Separate Writing and Editing

Avoid editing the first draft. Writing and editing have always been separate processes that use different sides of the brain, so they should be treated as such. If you see something you want to edit, you can make a mental note to come back to it later once you’ve completed the first draft. Remember, your writing will go through many drafts before it’s complete.

Here’s a neat trick for that. It’s what I like to refer to as the “Ray Bradbury Method.” Ray Bradbury once wrote an entire story in the dark, without seeing what he wrote. You can do the same thing by turning off your monitor (or your lights if you’re still sporting a typewriter) and don’t stop typing until you’ve completed your draft.

Write Longhand First

In the modern age, writing a story, poem, or article on paper might seem a bit arbitrary, but it’s actually quite helpful to a lot of people. Try writing your story, thoughts, or ideas, in a notebook and then later transfer them to the digital space.

Write an Outline

Outlines will keep your ideas in a structure so you’re not going all over the place to the point where nothing makes sense. Writing the book “in reverse” sometimes helps people as well. If you have an idea for the ending, try writing a rough draft of the ending, write only the main points of the middle (don’t get too specific yet), and then write the beginning. Now just fill in the details as you go.

Write Daily

Regardless of what tools you use to write, it’s important to hone your skills as often as you can or, like anything that isn’t used on a regular basis, it’s likely to be lost. Write 30 minutes a day minimum to keep the creative juices flowing. Set and follow a realistic writing schedule.

Constructive Criticism

Learn to take criticism and seek it out at every opportunity. Don’t get upset even if you think the criticism is harsh, don’t be offended even if you think it’s wrong, and always thank those who take the time to offer it. As mentioned before, you can join a writing group or hire a writing coach.

Come Back to it Later

If you run out of ideas, sometimes sitting there and racking your brain isn’t going to help. That’s when you need to either move to another project or take a break and try again later. It might even help to wait until the next day if you’re not on a deadline. Just be careful with this one. You don’t want to procrastinate.

Read, read, read!

The last thought might not seem so obvious, but you’ve got to be a good reader before you can be a good writer. Before you even start the writing process, read as many books, articles, or other content that are in the genre or subject matter you’d like to cover. The more you read, the more naturally writing will be for you. Reading also helps to build your vocabulary.

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Stopping Illiteracy: Why Reading is Important

Sometimes people wonder why reading is important. There are some obvious and some not-so-obvious reasons why reading is so vital to society. It’s true, there are a lot of other things we could be doing with our time, and with the advent of technology and the internet, some people might think of picking up a book as being a little dated or strange (e-book devices like the Nook and Kindle are replacing hard-copies in a lot of ways, though).

It is important to realize that struggling with vital reading skills in not a sign a low intelligence — if you do a quick search of the aforementioned internet, you’ll find a number of intelligent people who struggled with reading.

Which brings us back to the question of why is reading important?

Functioning in Everyday Society

Reading is an important part of developing critical comprehension and communication skills, and without those, life becomes incredibly difficult and in some cases, impossible. There are many adults who cannot read well enough to understand the instructions on a recipe, let alone important things like road signs or maps. That is a scary thought – especially for their children.  Day-to-day activities that those of us who can read take for granted become a source of frustration, anger and fear for those who can’t.

Finding Employment

If you thought finding a job was already difficult in today’s economy, think about how difficult it would be if you didn’t know how to read. One of the most important skills you can have is reading. Filling out job applications, reading and responding to memos and reports, or even reading simple directions become chores that can delay work or even put work on hold. Reading improves spelling, which improves the quality of a person’s resume, portfolio, and any items within that portfolio. Communication skills are better developed, which is key in virtually any job that’s out there today.

Mental Development

Reading doesn’t just mean better and more intellegent work in the workplace. It also allows you to develop the muscle that is your mind. like any muscle, the brain requires exercise. This is especially important for young children. The best books children can read involve using science to ask questions, discover, and solve problems. Interestingly, children also develop listening skills by reading, which helps them to avoid problems. In a nutshell, reading helps people of all ages avoid miscommunications that could result in job loss, divorce, and a myriad of other problems. Although it’s often overlooked, self-esteem and a better self-image is also an important part of knowing how to read. Non-readers or poor readers often have low opinions of themselves and their abilities and can feel like they’re alone in a world full of people who are out to get them. They often perform poorly in other subjects because they can’t read or comprehend the material and simply give up.

Discovery

As already hinted in Mental Development above, reading is important because it’s how we discover new things, particularly the most important things based on science. Books, magazines and even the Internet are great learning tools which require the ability to read and comprehend the material. A person able to read is a self-educated person, a person who can embrace new ideas at lightning speed and potentially turn those ideas into something more.

Imagination

Ahh, yes, where would the world be without imagination? It’s more than just thinking about being someone, something, or somewhere else. Imagination is the cornerstone of the human experience. Without imagination, the very fabric of our being would be at stake. Important subjects like science would not exist.  For non-readers, the very idea of imagination can be difficult to fathom. It’s imagination that spawns creativity and art. By utilizing imagination, children (and adults) can formulate their own opinions on the outcome of a story. They can picture things in their heads and are able to put these images on paper in writing or drawing form. This creativity can lead to an affinity for painting or writing, yes, but it can lead into new medical and scientific discoveries as well (remember Discovery above?).

Self-Control and Free-Thinking

Let’s go beyond the obvious. Many people tend to think the governments of the world are working for them when the reality is that the power of written ideas communicated through reading is a big reason why some governments oppose free and honest communication. Illiterate people are easier to control and manipulate. Yes it’s true; people who don’t read cannot do their own research and thinking. Often we find that many people who can read can’t comprehend or simply don’t want to do the research. In all of these cases, these people must rely on what they are told and how their emotions are swayed. We can see this happening in mainstream news media, politics, and society today.

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A Lazy Day, Perfect for Writing

Writing is fun on any day, but it’s especially fun on a day when you’re just relaxing and you have nothing to do except watch old episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” on Netflix while you’re cooking some pasta and putting off doing the laundry for another week of hard work.

Today I’ve been working a little on my upcoming rerelease of Seeds of the Future, a book that, as you all know, is no longer in print as of 2013.

I haven’t really discussed the release much, in part because I’m not sure what the final project is going to be. The first release was a collection of both short stories and poetry but I think I’m going to go short stories only this time. Those who own the original book won’t recognize some of the stories, as they’ve been largely reworked. I’ll have more details on this later.

I hope everyone is enjoying this weekend. Let me know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram how you’re spending it!

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Books, Poetry, and more by Josh Robert Nay