I struggle to get people accustomed to writing. Often times I’m approached by clients who have great stories but prefer that I write for them instead of bringing a finished manuscript to me for editing and publishing. The excuses have always been the same, ‘I can’t write. Can I record then you transcribe it? I know what I have to say but I can’t write it down.’
I hope these simple tips can help you establish your writing presence and feel confident about what you churn out. I always say, if you can open your mouth to speak, then, YES, you can write. Writing is simply a different form of communication.
8 tips to help you establish your writing presence
1. Read Widely
This is usually viewed as a cliché but it is one of the basics that you cannot run away from. The rules of nature are simple. We learn from others. When a baby calf is born, while natural instincts can teach it how to get up and walk, in order to walk in the right direction, it learns from the herd. The same applies to writing. By reading widely, in fact, by reading everything, you get to learn how those who have walked the path before you do it.
If you cannot afford to read everything, at least be sure to read about what you want to write about. That way, you will also understand what your audience likes and often reads.
“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
2. Write often
Practice has always paid off in many fields, the same applies to writing. The more you write, the greater your skills development. You can write about different topics or practice through social media posts and captions. We now live in a world where letters have been replaced but the same technic used to write letters can be implored. You can start journaling as well. The idea is to write as often as possible. I would say, strive to produce 300 words a day.
A lot of the celebrated great writers have written a lot of books and pieces. To be the Master, you have to practice. Write, write, write.
3. Rewrite drafts
If you have been writing but shelving some work, when you go back to read what you have written, the experience should make you cringe. I had a six years old manuscript that I simply couldn’t publish. When I decided to finally publish it, it sounded as if I’m not the one who had written that book. I spent several rounds editing it until I could finally declare it final before I submitted it to my proofreader. Likewise, when you revisit your old drafts, you can make light edits or a complete overhaul of the work, depending on the quality of the piece. Aim to keep improving.
4. Create an Outline
The easiest way to make sure you complete your writing project is to create an outline. It helps you create a coherent and complete piece of work. Start with the main headings and create subtopics and bullet points. Structure your work into short and concise paragraphs. Beef them up as you go, before you know it, your article will be done. This technique has worked for me since high school. My Geography teacher loved headings and they worked wonders. I moved with the technique to college, and completing that last minute assignment was quicker with an outline. We would brainstorm the points first and go on to beef them up. This is also evident in all my writing, I always make use of numbered points. They also help the reader identify the main points quickly.
The KISS concept works in a lot of areas. I recently had a workshop on competitive marketing and the speaker was emphasising KISS. Always keep it so simple. In writing, make use of simple and easy to understand words. Readers do not like big words that make them look for a dictionary while on a plane in flight mode. The online publishing sphere is also congested with a lot of information and again, readers do not want to have to research the meaning of a word for them to grasp your concept. Big and fancy words may work for your academic thesis but as a rule of thumb, effective writing makes sure the message is heard, clearly.
6. Eliminate filler words
As you strive to avoid big and fancy words, make sure to let go of filler words as well. These are words such as; that, very, just, really, etc. These words are just that, filler. They hardly mean anything in the text but simply fill up space. Avoid them at all cost.
Readers all over the world are bound by one common factor, they are irritated by errors in written text. Obvious typos, grammatical and spelling mistakes can put off your readers. Always make sure to proofread your work before publishing it. With digital media, the opportunity to redeem yourself maybe there, hence, always check your final copy and make sure it is perfect.
Proofreading is not only meant for those who intend to self-publish. Even if you prefer to traditionally publish, effectively proofreading your work will give you a greater chance of your work surviving the mush pile.
Whenever you complete some work, do not be afraid to share it with the world. Publish it and make it known. Do not doubt yourself or seek too much validation. Your audience’s feedback can always guide you. Do not be scared of criticism, we grow through it.
Establishing a skill takes time and perseverance. To give a yardstick for your progress and hone your writing skills, always practice. Write every day, pick up an old piece and make it better, keep it simple, edit, and don’t forget to share your work. Publish on social media. Create a blog, contribute to magazines. The objective should not be to be known but to improve your writing, all the other benefits will follow concurrently.
Make a date with me in next week’s article.
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