Why The Advice to Just Write is Just Wrong
Since I was a teen I’d been writing regularly.
I kept diaries, journals, wrote poems, songs, short stories and any piece of an idea that came to me.
I literally had binders full of these types of writings.
Why? Because I had been told that to become a better writer I had to… just write.
The only problem was, I WASN’T becoming a better writer. I’d open up a binder and sift through my writings and wonder what the hell I was thinking.
I was struck by how much of my own writing I didn’t want to read.
Writing takes time and effort. So, why would I want to put energy into something that didn’t give me a sense of satisfaction? Why indeed.
But, I had heard (over and over again) how important it was to just write. So I did.
It wasn’t the quantity of writing I did, the issue was quality.
I wanted to be good at anything I spent time doing whether that was for work or for fun.
If I was going to play baseball on the weekend I was going to be good at it despite the fact I’d never be approached by a Yankee scout.
So, if the advice to just write didn’t work, what’s a girl to do?
Well, for awhile I stopped writing. I read instead. I would then try to write and emulate authors I admired.
It helped, but I didn’t really have a system I could rely on to become a better writer.
I eventually found books and information on the internet that helped.
These gems of info were written by authors who struggled with the same issues I (and many others) faced. They found ways to overcome the problems and shared them with the world.
They became better writers because they improved the structure and technique of their writing process. NOT because they followed the advice of just write.
Below are 3 tips I learned to improve my writing. I hope they help you too…
#1 Use Shorter Sentences
The internet has shaped how we process words and information. Using shorter sentences helps you get your point across more effectively.
In times gone by, writers of most every genre could get away with long run on sentences. Sometimes it was even encouraged.
Today, saying what you want to say succinctly, is critical. There’s too much for a reader to choose from and it’s easy to just click away.
Keep in mind that using short sentences needs to be done with care. You don’t want your copy to read like a children’s book. Unless of course you’re writing a children’s book.
Play with the length of your sentences and see what happens. Write out a few pages and then read them aloud. Listen to how they flow.
This will help you understand how your writing will sound inside your reader’s head. If it reads smoothly it’ll help pull your reader farther into your work.
Ask yourself… is there a rhythm to your writing?
The rhythm of your writing is important and very much like a song with a “hook”. The hook of a song is that part of the melody people tend to remember and hum along to. Get the hook of your story right and your readers will keep “humming”
#2 Act 1, Act 2 & Act 3 with Keywords
We were all taught in English class (you’ll be tested later ;)) on the importance of having an introduction, a body and a conclusion in our essays.
It’s the same principle as having a 1st, 2nd and 3rd act in a novel, play or screenplay.
For a blog post or article you can use the same principle, only modified.
For Act 1 you want to get your best stuff in there. Make your best points up front.
Make sure you’ve made your points early so your reader knows what to expect. It will keep them reading. It’s essential for good SEO to include a couple keywords in the first Act as well.
In Act 2, continue the great content and include how your information will benefit your reader.
Also, if you want to add a call to action here is a great place to do it. You’ve given them enough great content that they’ve scrolled down to the 2nd Act.
It’s OK to ask a favor at this point. Your readers won’t mind.
Examples of what a call to action could be are:
– share your post on social media
– enter a contest you’re having
– ask for a charitable donation
– receive a free ebook in exchange for an email address
Finally in Act 3, your conclusion, you want to wrap it all up.
Sum it up for them. Basically, tell them what you told them and then include another call to action.
Make sure you’ve included a few of your targeted keywords for the article and you should be good to go.
#3 Write It All Down
This is a big one. Write out most of what you want to include in your article or story on paper first before you get on the computer.
This practice has really helped me become a better writer.
I used to get so frustrated at how slowly I’d put together a piece of writing. I had what I wanted to say in my head but it didn’t come out in a fluid and readable way, quickly.
Once I understood the importance of writing most of it down first with pen to paper, I spent a lot less time writing with the keyboard and screen.
It’s much easier to cross something out or draw an arrow from a paragraph to where I want it repositioned. I can also just scribble notes in the margins.
My biggest problem is reading my own handwriting!
Once you’ve got the entire detailed outline for your post that’s the time to sit down at the computer. Then, you can edit as you type.
By the time you’ve reached the end of your post or story it’s gone through a pretty thorough editing process.
The next thing to do is let it sit for a bit. Then go back, reread it and edit it again to polish it up for publication.
Come back for one last proofread and it’s ready for the world to see!
So the next time you hear the advice to “just write” as a path to becoming a better writer.. don’t believe it.
Concentrate on the 3 Act structure of your writing. Remember to use shorter sentences. And lastly…
Create a fully realized outline before you get on the computer. It’ll speed the whole process up.
These are just 3 tips to help you become a better writer.