Bart wants to start a blog, but he’s concerned about his writing. As he put it in his email, “I don’t write very well. I don’t want to embarrass myself. What can I do to write better right away without taking any expensive courses?”
Writing is a craft. It takes decades to master the craft. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to start writing better right away.
Here are three no-cost, no-brainer things you can do. There are no fees to pay, no courses to take, and no certificates to earn.
Write Like You Talk
Don’t write like you think a good writer should write. Write the way you talk. Write the way you would talk to a friend over a beer or a glass of wine.
Avoid phrases that you would never use in a conversation, such as, “I have long thought.” Avoid words that wouldn’t enter your everyday conversation, like “perspicacious” or “cogitate.”
Elmore Leonard said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” You should too.
Read Your Writing Aloud
Read your writing aloud to get a conversational tone. You’ll find that your mouth will trip over things that your eyes thought were perfectly fine.
Print out a version of your writing. Read it aloud. When you stumble on something to change, mark up the manuscript so you can change it when you’re done reading.
I have no science to support this, but I recommend reading from a page, not a computer screen. I think you’re more likely to catch difficult phrases that way.
Revise Your Piece At Least Three Times
Repeat your writing cycle three times. The cycle is that you write or revise the material. Then, you read it aloud. Then, you make any changes you think will make the piece better.
Go through that full cycle at least three times. Have at least a day between each revision.
If your work looks good enough to publish at the end of three revisions, hit publish. If it doesn’t, go through the cycle again.
There’s a saying that “Great writing is rewriting.” That’s true. It pairs well with the observation by Ernest Hemingway that “All first drafts are crap.” Rewrite and revise until your piece reads easily and says what you want to say.
Follow Elmore Leonard’s advice. If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.
Write the way you’d say it to a friend.
Read your writing aloud.
All first drafts are crap so great writing is rewriting.
Rewrite and revise until your piece reads easily and says what you want to say.