There’s loads of advice out there when it comes to writing, and it’s all very useful. In this blog post, I’ll talk about five particular tips that have stuck with me, and that I always think about when writing.
- Write, then edit
I can’t remember the name of the book where I read this advice, but I love the idea behind it as it’s helpful for getting a first draft done.
Writing should come before editing in the creative process, and the two shouldn’t be done simultaneously. If they are, you risk spending too much time getting a first draft done when you just need to get it done. You can always improve it afterwards.
- Write like you talk
This is one of the first tips I was given on copywriting. Before I publish my blog posts, I always read them aloud and ask myself ‘Would I say these words in a conversation?’ If I wouldn’t, I get rid of them or re-write them in a way I would talk.
This gives writing clarity. The more words I use that are common to everyday speech, the less the reader will have to question the meaning of what I’m saying.
- Write to learn
In his article Hell’s Angels: Long Nights, Ugly Days, Orgy of the Doomed, gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson (HST) wrote:
‘One of the few ways I can almost be certain I’ll understand something is by sitting down and writing about it. Because by forcing yourself to write about it and putting it down in words, you can’t avoid having to come to grips with it. You might be wrong, but you have to think about it very intensely to write about it. So I use writing as a learning tool.’
This advice is the reason I started this blog, and as an aspiring copywriter it’s relevant to me in particular. I could get asked to write about all sorts of things I have little knowledge of, and need to be able to think about them and then write them using plain English.
In this situation, a second pair of eyes looking at my work is useful. If I show my writing to someone and they don’t understand what it means, but I can explain it, then I know I need to re-work the writing. If I can’t explain it, then there’s more research on the content to do.
- Imitate your inspiration
This is another HST trick. He would type out pages of The Great Gatsby to experience what writing a great story feels like, and to absorb some of the magic to use in his own writing.
If I’m writing for a new website or publication, I type out one or two of their articles or blog posts, word-for-word, to help me learn about their word choices and sentence lengths. When it comes to writing original content for the publication, I find this experience helps me write to their style more closely.
- Get on with it
I was once taught there’s no such thing as a final draft. I appreciate this, and think it’s natural to feel your writing can always be improved even after it’s been published.
However, deadlines have to be met. Once you’ve tried out a couple of different ideas during the writing process, you’ve got to pick one and stick to it. This seemed daunting to begin with, but as my confidence in my writing grew I’ve found it easier. Now, I mostly just do a first draft and a final draft of my blog posts, and the final draft is always what makes it onto my blog.
Even more advice
If you’re a writer and you’ve received advice on writing that stands out, feel free to share this in the comments section below.