My writing has been in a death spiral for a couple of years now, I didn’t realize how bad it had become until I started re-reading a number of my old posts over the past couple of weeks. Yeah, about when I started bringing this blog back to life.
It isn’t that I don’t know how or can’t write – I can.
My writing became lazy, sloppy and I developed more than my share of bad habits. Using the excuse that I have a certain writing style does not give me or any writer permission to not write well.
Good writing is what readers expect. It does not mean that I want to be a professional as I explained in Staying an Amateur – Ain’t it Great. I owe it to the people that take the time to read my writing to do better work.
I heard this quote many years ago and it has stuck with me:
Great ideas do not make great writing, but great writing can communicate a great idea.Unknown
Improving my writing:
Use Google Docs to do the first draft of my posts. I need a workspace where I am not focusing on the editing tools versus writing. Google Docs does a good job of backing up my work and not getting in my way while writing. Also, I have easy access to Google Keep Notes.
Set word limits for posts. I am long-winded and need to shorten the length of my posts. 750-1000 words should be the maximum length of most posts. Less being even better.
Research. Do I know enough to write about whatever it is I am writing about? Do I need to mind map, outline or do more research before I start writing on the topic?
Pre-write. Think about what I want to write and how I will organize the story before I start. The Muse will guide me, but it does help to have an idea of what I am writing about, so she doesn’t have to do all the work.
First Draft. Don’t edit while writing the first draft – write. DO NOT hit publish after writing the first draft – EVER. All first drafts suck and whoever attempts to read it will know that it sucks.
Shiny Dime – Stay Focused. I need to find as David Perrell says that shiny dime for each post:
Now that I’m a writer, I start every article with the metaphor of a shiny dime. Like the control tower, it’s the centerpiece of my articles. It represents a tiny but detailed idea that’s easy to visualize. Psychologically, shiny dimes are a coping mechanism for writers whoDa try to explain their entire worldview in a single article…Though it’s tempting to write a magnum opus, the lack of constraints causes the article to spiral out of control.David Perrell
The Muse might lead me down a different path, but everything in the post revolves around that one shiny dime, I have to make sure that I find it and stay with it.
Stop over explaining everything that I write. Give readers credit for being the intelligent and resourceful people they are. Write only the essential, get rid of the fluff, filler and unnecessary background stuff that serves no purpose.
Edit the crap out each post. I am experienced enough to know what is a good blog post, copy or essay. Check the grammar, word usage, spelling, fact check, read it out loud and think about how it flows. Check the word count.
Use Tools. Hemingway and Grammarly make me focus on editing my writing. They are tools that work (when I use them) and don’t have any emotional attachment to what I am writing.
Slow down. I don’t have any deadlines or particular reason to rush a post. It doesn’t matter if I finish it today or tomorrow, other than I want to publish the post – so slow down.
WordPress.com. After I have finished editing, copy the draft document into WordPress.com’s blog editor. Make sure the formatting is correct, add in links, photos or other finishing touches. When I think it is ready – stop – wait overnight. Let myself and the document breath a bit before hitting the publish button.
Keep learning. This is something at I stopped doing and it bit me square in the arse. I need to stick to the basics of writing and take time to continue improving my writing skills.
When I searched – how to improve writing skills, I found many blogs, sites and videos. Many of these blogs and videos will give me ideas, pointers and even a few tricks that I never learned before. David Perrell’s site is my current favorite to improve my writing skills. There are other sites that are great, but his thoughts on writing seem to strike a chord with me.
The Reality is that
After re-reading a number of my old blog posts, I saw how badly written many of them were.
It is not that I do not know how to write well – I do. I simply lowered the standards of what I would accept good enough writing on my blogs. If I am completely honest with myself, I got lazy and a more than a little indifferent about my writing.
Improving my writing does not mean that I have to go back to college or take classes. It does mean I have to put in the work and use the skills I already have and add in the new skills I am learning.
The biggest thing is the slowing down part. I want to get to the publish button too soon, but haven’t done everything necessary to create a well written blog post.
I might have a great idea to make into a blog post. But if I cannot write well enough to communicate what I am thinking about clearly, readers are going to be frustrated when they attempt to read the post. That is not acceptable.
I have a plan to do better – now to do it.