Good Stuff: Writing


This list was taken from an article in Writers Digest. Use it wisely use it often.

Try these 25 tips out for size and your writing will improve almost immediately.

1.     Get an imagination. If it’s been done before, find a different way to do it. If it’s been said before, find a different way to say it.

2.     Do not start stories with the time, season, or weather conditions.

3.     Do not start with “It was” or “It’s” or “When.”

4.     Do not ever use time stamp sub heads (ie: 12:15 p.m.) to break up a feature story. Write in scenes.

5.     If you can’t find the killer declarative sentence to lede with, use an evocative scene-setting description.

6.     See like a movie camera—make your writing cinematic. Zoom in. Pan the surroundings. Use your words to make pictures.

7.     Build your images in linear fashion. Employ digression to explain.

8.     Use all five senses—writing is the only medium that is able.

9.     Go through your copy and eliminate as many recurrences of “that” you can find.

10.  Employ the elements of the novel: scene, setting, characters, dialogue, drama. (And point of view only where appropriate.)

11.  Don’t be so fast to write in first person. Isn’t it enough that somebody’s reading you?

12.  Don’t begin your narrative stories with the climax. Begin a couple scenes before the climax, then backtrack, then move forward. Give the reader a reason to keep reading until the end.

13.  What you don’t describe is just as important as what you do describe–omission invites the reader to fill in some of the details themselves. In reality, reading was the first interactive game. Take note: Your reader is making their own pictures from your words. And take advantage of that! It gives the reader an unconscious stake.

14.  Ask yourself: Why am I using this detail?

15.  When in doubt, cut it out.

[Freelance Writing: 10 Ways to Satisfy Editors & Land More Assignments]

16.   If someone reads this twenty years from now, will they understand the reference?

17.  Don’t work so hard with every sentence. Think of the meaning of “diamond in the rough.”

18.  Let your choice of details work subtly to invoke the attitude you wish to convey. (Instead of slamming the reader over the head with it.)

19.  When using dialog, stick with using “said” or “says.” Avoid fancy attributions—recalls, retorts, replies, unless it is done sparingly for effect.

20.  Be careful of too much effect. It becomes affect.

21.  Rely on nouns and verbs more than adjectives and adverbs.

22.  Show, don’t tell.

23.  Pick out a good voice and read out loud to yourself as you write. And also as you edit. Hear the rhythm of the syllables, the words. Good prose is like a song.

24.  Read writing by great writers. You can start with Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists, which I edited with Walt Harrington, the awarding winning author, former Washington Post staffer, and professor of journalism at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. For more info, please seewww.TheSagerGroup.Net.

25. To read dozens more tips on reporting and writing, please see

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