Five Ways To Improve Your Writing

Saturday, December 06, 2014
As a journalist, I need to be able to write when it's time to write. I'm on deadline - well, all the time - so it's imperative that once I've interviewed someone, I sit down and tell the story.

Despite writing two or three articles a day, I continue to look for ways to improve my writing. Even if you write fiction or poetry or plays, these practical ideas will help you fine tune your work.

Tip #1: Inspiration. I spend at least an hour a day perusing other newspapers, observing the storytelling style of its reporters, as well as the types of stories printed. A lot of the time, one of the stories I've read sticks in my mind, and by the time I should be working on a story, I'll catch myself daydreaming about that particular topic and how I can tie it to the community where I live and write about. Daydreaming - investigating and imagining - are important parts of the writing process. It allows you to question what's going on in the world and narrow it to something specific. Without asking those questions that come about from a daydreaming session, writing becomes stagnant. Why not take a half hour each day to investigate what subject can be molded into a story?

Tip #2: Flow. Once inspiration hits, it is time to put words on paper. What happens if the well runs dry or if a story takes a detour, into something that's not quite where it should be? This is why a routine - flow - is a key component on the writing process. I like to flesh out a story in my mind first and have a mental outline of what should be included. Then, the words take off, like a melodic sonata of give and take. Now that's writing.

Tip #3: Voice. A former fellow teacher would argue with me about the definition of voice. Naturally, I would win the argument. (Note my sly grin.) I had a knack for being able to read a student's piece of work and tell you who wrote it without looking at the name on the outside of the folded essay. Voice is how you write, how you string words into phrases and how those phrases create a rhythm and that rhythm morphs into a fluid piece. A reader contacted me the other day and told me that she enjoyed reading my newspaper articles because they were different. I asked her what she meant and she replied that the articles told a story, that they drew in the reader and made her feel like she was experiencing  what I wrote about. In other words, my writing has a distinct voice, and that, fellow writers, keeps readers coming back for more.

Tip #4: Sentence Structure. The same teacher I mentioned above taught students a formula for sentence writing. Personally, I found the practice a bit strange. Sometimes, a single word completes a sentence. Sometimes, a compound-complex sentence does the trick. What I'm saying is that sentence structure needs to vary. A lot. If it's all written the same, it'll read the same. And (yes, I started a sentence with 'and.') after awhile, same becomes boring. Stagnant. Get. The. Point?

Tip #5: Word choice. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Granted, I like visiting as much as the next person, and at times, I think there's good reason to consult a resource like this, but precision - connotation and even denotation - drive a story. Is it OK to say the grass is green if the color resembles an emerald instead of a lime or the ever-popular Kelly green? Great writing relies on precision to make a point, create an image, set the tone. You can accomplish those goals through word choice.

Writing requires practice on paper - maybe even a dry run through the mind - and implementing key writing processes will improve what you put on the page.

by LuAnn Schindler


Eugenia Parrish said...

Schindler's List? A very good one, reminding me that a great story in my head needs to go down on paper [computer] before it evaporates like breath on a mirror.

Margo Dill said...

These are great tips. I think when I wrote articles for the newspaper on a regular basis, my writing improved immensely. I had to learn to write fast and well and edit myself, too. No matter what your writing passion, I think a newspaper writing stint would help everyone!

Karen Cioffi said...

I like the explanation of 'voice' in no. three. Interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

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