Saturday, January 29, 2011

Quick tips for writers

Exterior view. Bronze tympanum, by Olin L. War...Image via Wikipedia
I get asked occasionally for my thoughts on writing professionally. Most of my writing output is technical documents but the same principles apply there as in any creative endeavor. Here's some tips that will help to improve your writing:
  1. Read a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron - it has some excellent discussion of how to manage the creative process.
  2. Think about how you want to manage the business of creating words in a certain order. Do you need copyrights? How about a copyleft? What happens in the long term based on short term decisions made now? 
  3. Have you covered the basic tools of writing - getting the grammar and spelling right, citing your sources properly, providing diagrams and page numbers? Editors and reviewers will need to be managed - their time and attention are valuable to you, so make the most of it by grammar-checking and spell-checking before you ask for outside input. Read your own work through at least once before asking anyone else to.
  4. Write in the present tense. Look at the written works that you admire and analyze them: is a ratio of 4:1 sentences relating to present:past a good one? How about 6:1? What is your goal and how can you make that happen in your writing?
  5. I recommend signing up for twitter. Being forced to be interesting in 140 characters has improved my writing and that of many others.
  6. Write every day, a lot, all the time. Re-read what you wrote and don't fear to ignore ideas that merit it and pursue the ones that rise to the surface. Creative destruction and the death of ideas still in their cradles is as necessary a part of the process as is the nurturing and indulgence of good ideas. 
"There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story." — Frank Herbert

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