10 Tips For Sharpening Your Writing Tools

The following tips have been gleaned from professionals and the following books. “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. On Writing Well by William Zinser. “On Writing” by Stephen King. “Painless Writing” by Jeffrey Strausser. “Painless Writing” is filled with exercises and easy to pick up tips.
 Develop a respect for words. Be curious about their shades of meaning. Play with them.
 Words are the only tools you will be given so learn to use them well. Make the thesaurus and online search engines your best friends.
 Words to avoid: Too, relevant, senior citizen, myself, upcoming, notables, great, hopefully, I think, honestly (or worse “to be perfectly honest”), amazing (vastly overused), suddenly. On the tool bar, click ‘find’ to see if you’ve overused a word, Type a word in and replace it if it feels worn out. Examples of overuse: and, so, that, if, really.
 My favorite expression from “Writing Down the Bones” is to make mud pies on the page. Don’t edit as you write; it interrupts your creative juices. Edit later.
 Stick to one tense. Don’t mix your tenses. If you start in first person, stick to it.
 Don’t mix your tone. If you’re chatty, keep it. If you’re speaking as the expert such as a travel guide, keep it. Don’t switch back and forth or if you are going to, tell the reader at the beginning. When introducing my RV Canada travel books I tell people they are a combination of our stories, other people’s stories and resources.
 Advice from Mike McCardell, reporter for Global BC TV: A powerful title is only 4 words. If you can say it in 100 words don’t ramble on for 500. Using action verbs keeps it tight.
 Before you start writing ask yourself:
* In what capacity am I addressing the reader?
* What corner of the topic will I cover? I can’t cover it all.
* What tense will I use?
* What is my style, chatty or formal?
* What attitude am I taking? Involved, amused, critical?
* What one point do I really want to make?
* What point do I want to leave in the reader’s mind?
 From Toastmasters on writing speeches I learned that my story should cover the 4 H’s: Head/grabs their attention at the beginning, and makes them think. The lead is another term for it. It captures the reader’s attention and forces them to keep reading. Leave hard details till later in the story. Heart/ makes them feel something. If we don’t reach our readers hearts, we’ve missed out. Humour/ makes them smile. Hit/ leave them with something to think about. The ending is as important as the lead so your reader doesn’t go away feeling unsatisfied.
 Stephen King sums it all up in two words, “Writers write.” They don’t just talk about it. They don’t just read about it. They don’t just attend seminars. They write.

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