21 Tips to Keep Your Writing Sharp

How to Get Your Writing In Shape

21 Tips to keep your writing sharp Face it every writer has days when they sit down to write and the words just don’t flow onto the page. You write one sentence and check how many words you just added in hopes it will miraculously be sufficient. The problem writers have is, when their heart isn’t in their writing, it shows. (Here’s how to overcome your writing demons).

To help you get your writing on track, here are twenty-one tips to prevent you from getting to the point where you have what I affectionately call blank-screen-syndrome.

  1. Create a list of articles you want to write but don’t have the time. I find that it’s easy to get inspired to write pieces about other topics when the pressure’s on to write a specific topic. There’s nothing like a deadline to make anything else seem exciting.
  2. Feed your mind. Read a book and/or other sources of insight such as blogs and news sites to get ideas. This isn’t an excuse to get a snack or other indulgence.
  3. Develop a story around a trending topic, even if it’s not in your area of focus. The objective is to stretch yourself to find a way to write about the hot topics. This can be useful for bloggers and company content where you need to keep your content relevant.
  4. Keep a swipe file. Sign up for a wide range of newsletters focused on your main topics to see what other writers and bloggers are covering. Save those articles that provide new insights or a different format for inspiration. This doesn’t mean you should simply copy someone else’s ideas or articles.
  5. Collect relevant questions you and others have on your main subject area. Think like you’re writing an endless FAQ. A list of questions gives you a hook to build your content around. This is particularly useful for blogs and company content.
  6. Get a jump before you quit. Before you quit a writing session, write down the ideas you have for the next session; form them into an outline added to the current document to make it easy to pick up where you left off.
  7. Close your digital door to remove distractions. This means close your social media sites, chat and email. To this end, it’s useful to have a dedicated space for writing.
  8. Make an appointment to write. Set your timer or alarm for a specific time and that’s when you have to start writing.
  9. Change writing environments. If you always write at your kitchen table, and you’re now stuck for new ideas, try writing at a coffee shop or local library.
  10. Seek inspiration. Do something that provides you with a muse. Go to a play, or museum.
  11. Write a piece using someone else’s title. The goal isn’t to steal another writer’s work but rather to force yourself to write with a framework set by someone else. You can also do this for one of your articles. Force yourself to write a second piece that’s completely different from the first but has the same title.
  12. Tell a story. One way to make your writing memorable is to make it into a story. Include a beginning, middle and an end. Even if you’re writing about dry research, you need to make it memorable. (Here’s some storytelling  and inspiration for 29 corporate story types.)
  13. Break complex topics into smaller chunks. Sometimes you need to have more manageable goals. A topic that you find getting too complicated might work really well if divided into multiple, more targeted topics.
  14. Start where the energy is. Once you’re out of school, you don’t have to write everything in order, starting at the beginning. Begin where you’re inspired.
  15. Leave room for discussion. You don’t need to say everything there is to say on your topic. This is particularly true if you’re blogging where you want to attract comments.
  16. Use a human voice. When you read what you’ve written does it sound like something a real person would say or have you let it devolve into corporate gibberish? If your writing is a bore, it won’t get read no matter how important the points you make.
  17. Write in an active voice. The goal is to make your writing as strong as possible. Your piece will lose a lot of its vitality if you overuse the passive voice.
  18. Skip the four letter words. While using a human voice is good, it’s poor form to fill your writing with lots of slang and curses. Although they do attract attention, it’s not always the type of attention you want.
  19. Let it rest. If you’ve been pounding away on a piece for quite a while, take a break. This doesn’t mean you should abandon it. But rather get the main points down and wait a bit before you edit it.
  20. Read your article out loud. It’s amazing how many errors you can find this way.
  21. Check your spelling and usage. While most people compose directly onto a computer, it’s critical to make sure you’ve used the correct words. Spell checkers can’t tell the difference between they’re, their or there since all three are correctly spelled.

Although a lucky few writers never hit a dry spell, it can happen to you. Try some of these techniques to keep your writing in top form. Like many other skills, the more you do it, the better and faster you’ll be.

Do you have any favorite tips for keeping your writing in tip top form? If so, would you please share them in the comment section?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Here are some other articles you may find of interest.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tc_terencec/4246523307/

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  • http://befoundlocalmobileonline.com/ Juicy Wees

    I’m all about setting myself up to succeed so I absolutely agree with #6 Get a Jump Before You Quit. I find if I can give myself a headstart, like the one you proposed, it not only takes the pressure to complete off but the task becomes more inviting to work on. Great list!

  • http://twitter.com/hot_ken Kenneth del Rosario

    / When I feel like I’ve hit a wall, I take a walk or a run. In fact, I use this time to think of a lead or a title. That way, before I even sit down in front of my laptop, I already know what to write. The walk couldn’t hurt as well, considering that writing is very sedentary. :)

  • http://twitter.com/deblund Deb Lund

    Great list! My focus with writers tends to me more on the side of conquering those nasty inner voices before you can even pick up a pen, so this was refreshing to think of going through a list like this where the emphasis is on actual writing activities (which may also lead you to dealing with your inner critics). What a treat to discover your blog!

  • http://ernohannink.com ernohannink

    Love the list Heidi. I do some small tasks in our home like the laundry or ironing or even better I take a shower. Takes the mind of writing and get the creative energy flowing again.

  • http://www.codex-soft.com/ Anton Zaleski

    All this seems to be great, but can easily be merged in one – “Seek for
    inspiration any way you simply can imagine”. Psychology as it is, I
    believe. Motivation.
     

  • http://twitter.com/patrickmahan Patrick Mahan

    #3 is great advice. And I believe it is one of the things you do best!

  • http://twitter.com/patrickmahan Patrick Mahan

    Hi Heidi! #3 is great advice. And I believe it is one of the things you do best!

  • http://www.madebyguerrilla.com Mike Smith

    Great list Heidi! I personally use swipe files on a regular basis (I’ve got a specific gmail address I use to have all newsletters sent to) and find that there’s a TON of inspiration in just that one tip alone. If you sign up to great newsletters though, you run the risk of getting sucked in and lose time while reading too much :)

  • http://twitter.com/JenniferKeene JenniferKeene

    Bookmarked! Terrific post.