Actual, Real, Immediate Things You Can Do to Improve Your Writing Now
A lot of people with “writing tips” give very general, and somewhat unhelpful bits of advice. “Try to keep the theme!” screams one blogger. “Here’s a bunch of fun words to replace said!” declares another. Well, Janice, that’s well and good, but I want to improve things QUICKLY. RIGHT NOW. And I can handle improving my structure and skills on my own! My writing just clashes with the ear. How can I fix it?
Well, here’s a bunch of tips I use to fix my writing. They will 100% make your writing stronger. Guaranteed.
1. GET RID OF EXTRA WORDS. On its own? General. Here’s actual words to get rid of: really, very, help/helps/helping, just, some, many. Get rid of them. Now your writing is better.
2. USE SAID. For fuck’s sake I want to die every time I see one of those “a hundred words to use instead of said!!!” posts. The point of using a generic word like “said” is to make your dialogue tags disappear. Readers should read the dialogue and sense the tone without all your nonsensical caps and italics. Write so that the tone is implicit. Use said, unless you REALLY need to swap out for volume. Whispers/shouts are the only really good exceptions to this rule. Replace everything else with “Said.” Now your writing is better.
3. READ IT OUT LOUD. Problems of all sorts will become clear to you when you read out loud, even if you’re just muttering it to yourself. Sentences that take two breaths to read are too long. You’ll notice words you overuse, or vague statements, even misspellings that the brain typically glances over when you read in your head. Stop whenever you need to and change stuff. Now your writing is better.
4. DELETE YOUR FIRST PARAGRAPH. Odds are you took anywhere from a paragraph to a chapter to find your stride. Whether you rewrite or you just get rid of it is up to you, but either way it helps. Delete delete delete. Now your writing is better.
5. WRITE IN THE ACTIVE VOICE. As a general rule, the active voice is stronger than the passive voice. There are exceptions to this rule, but it holds pretty firm overall. How do you know when something is in the passive voice? If you can put “by zombies” after your verb and it makes sense, it’s passive. Here’s an example: “I ate by zombies the cake” makes absolutely no sense, so it’s active voice. “The cake was eaten by zombies” makes perfect sense, so it’s passive voice. Rewrite any passive sentences in active voice. Now your writing is better
There’s a bunch of other stuff to do, of course. There really aren’t many wrong or invaluable pieces of writing advice out there– they’re all good. Sometimes you just need a quick fix to stop yourself from giving up.
Feel free to add more!