Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

A Handy Editing Cheat Sheet

In Editing, Editing Advice, Editing as Part of Writing, Editing Tips, Writing on September 26, 2021 at 11:00 am

Once you’re ready to self-publish, rushing the editing process may lose readers and hurt author branding.

The book likely needs one more step, or your credibility might be called into question if it’s published too soon. To do that step takes time and several rounds solely and with group input from critique partners/groups and beta readers. At the very least, editing should be done at the developmental, copy editing and proofreading levels.

Developmental editing looks at the structure of your novel from the story arc to the characters, setting, dialog, theme, conflict, tension and pacing. It also looks at consistency in all the story elements of character, setting, plot and dialog.

Copy editing gives a close look at every line of text to check for story, style, transitions and repeats, as well as grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax and other mechanics of style.

Proofreading gives a final pass to catch the errors not caught in the first two rounds, since it’s impossible to see every single mistake in a solitary read. This requires a careful, slow review of each paragraph.

Through the editing process, there are several things to think about, which are compiled in a simple, straightforward cheat sheet.

Editing Cheat Sheet

  • Cut unnecessary words and sentences that do not move the story along or confuse what you’re trying to say.
  • Vary the sentence structures, so that not every sentence reads subject-verb-object. Use varied sentence lengths and structures and mix in short and long paragraphs.
  • Look for needless repetitions, awkward transitions and poor word choice. Avoid repeating words, facts and details.
  • Opt for the active voice over the passive voice. For example, say, “The child picked the tulips,” instead of “The tulips were picked by the child.”
  • Keep verb tenses the same, especially within a sentence.
  • Replace adjectives and adverbs with nouns and verbs.
  • Use the active voice whenever you can.
  • Get rid of clichés, unless used for a specific purpose, because they demonstrate a lack of creativity.

Editing in Passes

Editing is best done through a few passes, since not every error can be caught in the first go-around with several things to pay attention to all at once. Editors are trained to find those flaws and oversights and to improve your writing and storytelling, so that your novel will have great structure and flow. That way readers won’t put it down out of frustration at too many errors or a story that doesn’t make sense or matter to them.

Note: I provide editing, writing and ghostwriting services and can help you perfect your project from an article or blog series to a short story or novel. I also offer consultations on writing and editing through #ShellsInk at shellsinkservices.com.

Why Work with Other Readers, Writers First

In Editing, Editing Advice, Editing as Part of Writing, Editing Tips, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Tips on August 1, 2021 at 7:00 am

Don’t spin in circles with your writing, but try to find other writers and readers to give your work an evaluation before hiring an editor.

By SHELLEY WIDHALM

For writers wanting to self-publish, hiring an editor is an investment, as is getting a great cover design and the correct formatting for an upload.

But writers can do some of the editing work themselves—they can self-edit, work with a critique group or partner, and send off their work to beta readers.

Start with Self-Editing

To do their own self-editing, writers can use a checklist to evaluate the issues of their work (novel, novella or short story collection). Often in question format, checklists go over each element of writing, including plot, character, dialog, setting, tension, conflict, pacing and themes. They can help with things like gaps in plot, inaccurate calendars if it’s June but winter, and blurred secondary characters that sound the same or serve roles that could be combined.

Writers also can revise the book as a first “reader,” looking for skipping of plot points, logistical misalignments and description inconsistencies, as well as areas where the book is boring or moves too quickly, glossing over essential story points.

I like to do this and then do a couple more rounds while still looking at pacing, identifying what doesn’t make sense and where there are gloss-overs in descriptions or dialog. Could things that are summarized be set into scene for instance?

Work with Others

Once the book has gone through at least two rounds of editing, ask for feedback—more than one evaluation is ideal for varied and more comprehensive comments. Evaluations are essential since writers miss things from being too close to their work and not having the ability to encounter it for the first time as new readers.

Feedback can come from beta readers or a critique partner or critique group. Beta readers are readers first, while critique or writing partners are readers who also are writers.

Find a Critique Partner

Critique partners (and groups) generally do an exchange of work to provide feedback, typically more general in nature as opposed to looking for grammar, spelling and punctuation issues.

They can point out where the writing gets muddy—descriptions might be unclear or assume reader knowledge about a specialized topic. They can check character identities to see if details of appearance are consistent throughout (brown eyes stay brown) and that characters are differentiated by their mannerisms, speaking styles and ways of approaching life.

Working with partners is way to figure out what’s not working in the story and to get suggestions for making improvements.

Add Beta Readers

Beta readers may not enjoy writing but do love reading. They should have a basic knowledge of what makes for good writing, as well as an understanding of the elements of the craft. They also should read in the book’s genre.

Beta readers provide feedback based on their skills, knowledge and experience of writing. Like with writing partners, they point out what they think isn’t working in the manuscript and offer ideas for improvement without changing the writer’s voice. They point out areas that don’t make sense and ask questions, providing clarity on how the reader experiences the work.

Make the Hire

Once the book has had a critical audience, then it’s time to hire an editor, either at the developmental or copy editing level.

An editor will give that professional overall or line-by-line view of the work, not skipping over things because personal life gets in the way or they’re learning about the craft or the genre. They are paid to pay attention to every aspect of the work, identifying areas to fix and asking targeted questions for a rewrite, or simply polishing it up to make it ready to publish.

Note: I provide editing, writing and ghostwriting services and can help you perfect your project from an article or blog series to a short story or novel. I also offer consultations on writing and editing through #ShellsInk at shellsinkservices.com.

What’s With All the Editing Terms?

In Copyediting, Developmental Editing, Editing, Editing Advice, Editing as Part of Writing, Editing Tips, Proofreading on July 19, 2021 at 11:00 am

A clean dog is like a clean manuscript–both want you to pick them up for either petting or reading.

By SHELLEY WIDHALM

Do you read a Big 5 published book and see a few grammatical errors that make you flip to the acknowledgements page and ask, “Is there even an editor on the team?”

The last book I read, “Just Between Us,” omitted almost every “and” between independent clauses and randomly used the Oxford comma (the comma before the last item in a series). It’s a suspense, so I got into the story, but the first 50 pages were a bit tedious, especially with the info dump of back story and the only action a bruised wrist and four characters wondering about it.

My current read, “The Lost,” overdoes “says” when action beats will suffice and has a few grammatical and logistical errors despite three editors on board.

Of course, there is a 5% miss rate with any editing job.

But what exactly is editing that makes sure readers get to read without the annoyance of errors? There are many terms for editing, but it can be broken down into three levels from an overall view down to the final polish. There is content and developmental editing, copy and line editing, and proofreading.

Content/Developmental Editing

Content and developmental editing looks at the structure of your novel or how your story is put together from beginning to end. It’s a review of plot and character arcs and the development of the main and secondary characters, as well as setting, dialog, theme, pacing, and conflict and tension. There’s also the consideration of logistics, such as the timeline and space continuum, so that Monday happens after Sunday, and consistency of character, setting and other descriptions.

Here are some questions an editor may consider: How is the story told? How is it organized? How does it flow through the plot and character arcs? Are there any gaps or places lacking a transition? Are characters flat or dimensional? How about the pacing? At what points do readers get excited by the story line and at what points should there be time for reflection?

The result: readers don’t see words but pictures, as if the writing becomes cinematic. The story entices and excites readers. And it makes them pause at your voice and style, use of language and amazing descriptions.

Copy/Line Editing

Copy or line editing goes deeper by looking at the story word for word. It’s not just a matter of looking for errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, mechanics and syntax. Depending on what’s needed, it also can involve checking for consistency in style, identifying areas where voice is lost, looking for word echoes (words that repeat in paragraphs or sentences), cutting what’s overstated, fixing plot points that end up getting repeated, and identifying misses—is there more that needs to be added or something to remove?

The editor might ask: How are commas being used as a stylistic choice (Oxford? No comma before the final “too” in a sentence?)? Are facts accurate and consistently used? Are metaphors and other writing devices carried throughout the story? Are there too many of them that end up being confusing? Are historical facts accurate? Are any scientific and other concepts explained in a way that makes sense?

The result: Good writing results in pages free of those little errors that take readers out of the story and cause them to edit in their heads.

Proofreading

Proofing a book is a matter of reviewing the language, such as a check of grammar, spelling, punctuation, mechanics and syntax (just like with copy editing), plus any typos and missed errors from previous editing rounds.

Reading the proof, especially if it is nonfiction, also involves flagging locations of art and graphics, checking page breaks and aligning chapters and indexes.

So when do you need which type of editor?

A developmental editor helps organize a story so that it meets genre demands and fits with reader expectations. It’s needed if writers get stuck in a story or receive several no’s from literary agents.

Line editing and proofreading give a final polish to writing that literary agents appreciate and readers of self-published authors demand—who wants to be caught up in errors when the idea is to read for story, plot and character and the desire to turn the page?

After Writing, What’s Next? Yep, Editing!

In Critique Groups, Critique Partners, Editing, Editing Advice, Editing as Part of Writing, Editing Tips, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Tips on May 2, 2021 at 11:00 am


After putting your heart into your manuscript, it’s time to edit to catch those errors that, as a writer, are easy to miss! (Chalkboard drawing by Shelley Widhalm)

Writing a book takes hundreds of hours of investment, but does that mean it’s ready to send off to an agent or load up on a self-publishing platform?

For most writers, there’s one more step that makes books more appealing before handing it over to two types of readers: the agent who will say yes, or the audience who will want to purchase your book.

That step is editing the revised manuscript, which writers typically do solo, then with others. Editing offers professional expertise on the big picture of story development and the small level of grammar, mechanics and punctuation.

Developmental vs. Copy Editing

Developmental editors help with the structure of your novel. That includes many facets, such as plot and character arcs, main and secondary characters, setting, dialog, theme, pacing, conflict and tension, logistics and consistency in things like character and setting.

The second type of editor is a copy or line editor who gives a close look at every line of your text to check for grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax and other mechanics of style. Proofreading is another step of editing and is a final edit of proofs before they are sent to the printer.

Before hiring either type of editor, go through a few drafts to get your manuscript in the best shape you can (this will save you on costs). Write the first draft fast and furious to get it out, forgetting about the internal editor that will slow you down and waste your time, unless, of course, you find a big problem in your story and need to go back to plotting or the other elements of writing.

Next, revise the manuscript on your own for at least one round, then work with partners, such as a critique partner or group, to identify issues with plot and character arc, conflict and tension that paces the story, and scene development

If you need help along the way at developing the story, hire a developmental editor to help shape it. Or if you’re ready to send it off to agents, hire a line editor to give it that final polish.

Why Hire an Editor?

The advantages of hiring an editor are many, including:

  • An editor will spend more time on it than a critique partner, since they are evaluating every line of text, checking for any errors in grammar, as well as things like logistics and action beats (a character does an action instead of “said” to carry along the scene).
  • An editor is trained in and regularly studies grammar and knows about the different style guides, such as Chicago Manual and Associated Press.
  • An editor is proficient in the nuances of comma usage, which is widely misunderstood, while also realizing there is individual style in punctuation that is part of voice, style and tone.
  • An editor cross examines your text for consistency in character traits, clothing and eye color, plus makes sure the setting and logistics are consistent from the start to the finish of a scene.

Lastly, editing varies from editor to editor. Writers are individualized in their styles and approaches to writing and revising. Editors, too, will bring different approaches, backgrounds and experiences to your project.

For instance, I’m good at noticing things like commas, word echoes and logistical problems. I also am a writer, so I understand what it’s like to be in both worlds, that of the writer and that of the editor.

Note: I provide editing, writing and ghostwriting services and can help you perfect your project from an article or blog series to a short story or novel. I also offer consultations on writing and editing through #ShellsInk at shellsinkservices.com.

Fires and Masks: I Can’t Breathe

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2020 at 11:00 am

Multiple fires across the state darken the skies in downtown Loveland, Colo., making for an eerie atmosphere.

As ash falls out of the sky, I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop struggling to write my blog.

The sky is spooky, haunted and surreal as leaves shimmer gold against a smoke blanket. Ash coats sidewalks in small, blowing piles of destruction, and pieces of pinecones curl like oversized eyelashes.

It’s nine days before Halloween, and I feel anything but eidolic, only thinking about fun and candy.

Like everyone else, I’m trying to sort through the tragedies of 2020, how they all seem to focus on breath. First, the masks that cover our faces, then “I can’t breathe” leading to the BLM movement, followed by fires across the West that significantly lower our air quality.

Trifecta of Breathing

I can’t breathe as my heart breaks at how the sky literally feels like its falling, but in little white  and black pieces of life destroyed.

I can’t breathe as I run—I’ve moved inside and run in a gym, my mask in place.

I can’t breathe as I shame myself for my pivot from writing to editing. I’m not getting work fast enough. I might fail. And on it goes.

I started my writing and editing business nearly four years ago because I lost my reporting job at the local newspaper. When I got the pink slip at my journalism job, I gasped. Not me. I was told my position had been cut. I was laid off.

I couldn’t find a job. I started a business and gasped for breath as I tried to understand how to be a solopreneur. I read books. I met with consultants at the Loveland Business Development Center. And I called my brother, who owns a business, asking tons of questions.

After a couple of years, finally I felt grounded. My numbers were growing. It looked like I could quit my side gig job. And then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. I lost two-thirds of my business, and over the months, built it up to half of a loss.

As we got shut inside, I increased my hours at my essential services gig job (just by 4 to 24 a week). I became more engaged in writing and editing my novels. I got obsessed with Zoom webinars on writing and editing.

Fires Recolor the Sky

And then the fires came. I didn’t want to write. I stopped blogging, thinking it felt like a chore. And then I missed it, just like I miss Colorado’s blue skies I took for granted until two months ago.

Each day, I wonder what color the sky will be. I wonder how it will feel to breathe again without thinking of facial coverings and falling ash.

I wonder if I’ll cough, if my chest will feel tight.

I don’t wonder about love and passion. I love writing, and I love editing, my breath givers.

What are yours? What do you love that is helping you through these hard times? What are three of your passions? What are three of your skills? What are three ways that you can reach out to others?

What makes you feel like you can breathe again?

Adjusting (albeit reluctantly) to COVID-19

In Adjust and Readjust, COVID-19, COVID-19 Response, Editing, Readjusting, Self-Isolation, Social Distancing, Writing on April 5, 2020 at 11:00 am

KingSoopersSampling7 04-2019

Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services works in the Murray’s Cheese Department at a Loveland, Colo., King Soopers store for her gig job. Here, she is handing out samples before Kroger temporarily discontinued food demonstrations and sampling in response to COVID-19.

At first I thought the media response to COVID-19 was an overreaction, and then as I read fake and real news, I changed my mind.

I also changed my patterns, though I had no choice with the March 26 executive order to stay-at-home issued in Colorado, where I live.

Not a Joke!

On April Fool’s Day, I went on a walk with my dog, Zoey, and I had a dream the night before—the word that came to mind as I walked in the nice sunshine was “readjust.” The night before, I cut and pasted my dream—I don’t recall the parts that I moved around, but I made changes, or adjustments, to the content. Changing my mind also was an adjustment as is editing—it adjusts a rough draft into polished writing.

On March 13, which was Friday the 13th, I significantly noticed the world was changing in response to coronavirus, though I’d already been reading the articles. That’s the day my gym closed for 13 days—now extended through the end of April. I cried and complained, because I couldn’t live without the gym, where I lifted heavy weights and ran.

Adjust and Readjust

But I adjusted, albeit slowly, and instead of running 30 minutes every other day amped it to 45 minutes a day with Saturdays off. I also brought out my weights set—don’t laugh!—of 5, 3 and 2 pounds, plus wrist weights of 1.5 pounds. I was in a lot of pain for one week—I have fibromyalgia and cope through daily exercise. I adjusted, at least physically, and saw my pain return to normal as I pretended I was at the gym and did the same exercises with tiny weights.

I also work at a grocery store for my gig job and literally felt shocked at the empty shelves starting in mid-March. The energy from the shoppers felt disjointed, chaotic and fearful. There was an increase in lack of manners, which then returned to caution and politeness with social distancing. And there was a scarcity in a weird list of things—yes, TP, but also potatoes, onions, bread, meat, cheese, yogurt, eggs, other paper products, and um, I don’t get this, bananas.

KingSoopersCOVID-19 03-2020

The paper products aisle at a Loveland, Colo., King Soopers store is nearly empty March 13, which was Friday the 13th.

I began to store associate isolate, focusing on cleaning—I work in the cheese island—notice the word, “island.” That means I’m in a U-shaped section with tall counters and can focus on my task list, which I self-increased by adding the cleaning duties. I reacted out of fear of catching the virus, staying six feet away from customers, washing my hands for 20 seconds, avoiding touching my face and showering after work, plus separating my work clothes from my other things.

Avoid Self-Isolation

My other job is freelance writing and editing, and I used to work part of my day in a coffee shop. The state limited restaurants and coffee shops to to-go orders, so I isolated at home to do my work under the stay-at-home order. I thought I couldn’t live without a way to get out of the house and be in a busy, social environment, but I adjusted.

And now when it rains, I take out my inside running shoes, and I go for a run—inside. Yep, I make due.

Speaking of which, all the books that I have due at the library aren’t overdue, because, you guessed it, the library’s closed. But words haven’t been cut off—we still have ways to communicate—Zoom, email, text, the telephone. I even wave as I run by my neighbors from that six feet of distance.

Did I mention that I do editing? And that I have room in my schedule for one to two editing projects. I also do writing for individuals and businesses with the content adjusted perfectly to the message.

 

Keeping on Task with Writing During the Holidays

In Habits, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals on December 2, 2018 at 6:00 pm

ShelleyPresents2 12-2017

Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services holds up one of her gifts during Christmas 2017, celebrated at a local Starbucks with her family, after spending an hour that morning at another coffee shop doing some writing.

The holidays are about fancy parties, good food and fun get-togethers, but they also can be about writing and keeping up that routine.

Each year, I have to make a conscious effort to fit in writing on my holiday to-do list. Beside my usual work and life activities, I need to set aside time for writing my annual Christmas letter and shopping for presents, along with extra holiday socializing. With a busier calendar, I still need to retain focus on my main goal, which is writing. Without that focus, along with some discipline and a plan, the additional activities can become a distraction.

That’s why setting a routine, especially during a busy time of the year, is extra important.

Writing Routines

Here are a few ways to be disciplined in writing no matter the time of year:

  • Buy a planner or use a phone app for 2019 and schedule specific writing days.
  • Write daily, or at least a couple of times a week, selecting a specific time or place to write, i.e. keep writing office hours.
  • Clock in the hours you write, both for accountability and to acknowledge what you have accomplished and add up the hours every week or month and compare them over time.
  • Write for five or 10 minutes in between other activities, using a notebook that you always have with you. Those minutes will add up.
  • Write a writing action plan with goals for the year and check in every few weeks to mark your progress.
  • Take a writer’s retreat, even if it’s in your hometown, setting aside a weekend to focus on writing (maybe as a reward for surviving the holidays or just before everything gets busy).

Writing Results

Once writing is routine and you mark your progress toward your goals, you can see how you are reaching those accomplishments, while also being able to engage in holiday fun.

Over the course of a year, I like to calculate how many hours I spent on writing my novels, writing poetry and revising my work, along with the time I dedicated to writing each month. I can tell when I’ve gotten distracted and for how long, not putting in those important hours and minutes that can add up to a significant amount, especially in a year’s time.

This holiday, I plan to stay on track and keep to my original goal of writing at least two times a week and fitting in writing whenever I can. That way I can get in more writing for my year-end tally!

Saying Goodbye to a Car (with a little bit about writing)

In Car Repairs, Cars, New Cars, Writing, Writing and Cars on October 21, 2018 at 5:00 pm

2002SaturnGoodbye1 10-2018

Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services had to get new wheels in early October after she said goodbye to her 16-year-old car that took her all over the country and got her nearly 170,000 miles.

For months, I knew we’d be parting ways, my car of 16 years that took me nearly 170,000 miles in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Nebraska and my home state of Colorado. I knew that after replacing the clutch, fixing the brakes, getting yet another set of tires and having 2,000 misfires in the engine, plus a window that wouldn’t go up or down and a front end duck taped together, all within two years, this day would come.

The Repairs

My heart pounded as I heard the verdict on the cost of repairs. I couldn’t keep fixing what’s broken and return my car to clean newness. I called a towing company to have it taken from the car shop to my apartment. I’d driven it the day before, and it went thumpity-thump down the road, the “Check Engine” light flashing as it went slower and slower until it was a matter of … where do I stop? I parked, went to a meeting and a co-freelancer helped me drive the car to the shop.

At 2:15 p.m. on Sept. 28, my car arrived on the bed of a tow truck, which lowered it into its parking space. I looked at the white truck and my car, back and forth, thinking, do not cry. I got my key and sat inside my car, and I cried. I didn’t think I would, because I’d been saying “I hate you” for breaking down.

Memories flashed through of our times together, my cranberry red Saturn, my first brand new car when I thought I was fancy and on the top of my game. I had a job as a features writer at The Washington Times. I was going to work at The Washington Post or The New York Times. I was going to be a published author. I would have an expansive wardrobe and fill my passport to overflowing.

The Adventures

My car and I went to the beach and to the mountains. We went on wine tours. We went shopping. We got separated in big parking lots. We listened to audio books and the radio. She, my Cranberry Red, listened to me talk on the phone before that became a no-no, and she heard me go through the gamut of emotions. She was there out my apartment window wherever I lived, my constant.

I sat in her passenger seat, thinking, I won’t be driving you anymore. This is it. This is goodbye. My heart beat a little faster. I couldn’t catch my breath. I wanted to have my car to go places. To be. Not this. Not this soon.

I got laid off in 2008 from The Washington Times, and my car and I moved back to Colorado. I got laid off in 2016, and we thought it wasn’t fair, two layoffs in less than a decade, but it was the recession and then post-recession. Cranberry Red started to age, and she needed lots of assistance to keep going. I gave her what she wanted, peeling out hundreds and hundreds of dollars for her care.

The Goodbye

I felt like she’d become part of me, my car. And then I thought about all of the things I’m going to be. I’m not giving up.

I am going to be a traditionally published author, no matter the effort that it takes, because I will have the heart and the new wheels and the love of family and friends to let me know that I can go forward. I will keep writing and loving writing. Because over the last month, I had wanted to quit my business and my writing and then my car quit, and I figured, no, not both of us.

One of us has to carry on the torch of the Cranberry.

Running and Writing (and getting inspired)

In Running, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline on March 4, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Going for a run and sitting down for a writing session require the same grit.

The obvious reason is the discipline, showing up day after day to get fit and maybe lose weight or to sharpen skills.

Various writers approach that grit in different ways: by writing 1,000 words a day or for a certain length of time, going for writing sprints, setting writing goals and incrementally meeting them, and doing things like writing a short story a week or the rough draft of a novel in a month.

Writing the first few times may be crappy—for new writers, figuring out how to translate what’s learned about the elements of writing into structure or overwriting or underwriting a messy first draft. The first draft can be too much with too many details, repeated scenes, dialog that drags and too many characters not doing anything; or, it can be too little with scene jumps, jumps in logistics, a lack in transitions and underdeveloped plot, character, setting or dialog.

Running daily incrementally builds muscle, increases metabolism and improves lung capacity, while doing it here and there is nice, but won’t change the body in any noticeable way. I ran my way three sizes smaller and wrote my way into lots of copy, noticing how both become easier through time and practice.

The less obvious similarity between running and writing is that it can be a real pain to do both. I don’t always want to go for a run, particularly at the end of a long work day when I’m already tired. I feel like I don’t have any energy until I get into the third, fourth or fifth lap, and then muscle memory takes over. Oh yeah, this is how running works.

I don’t always want to write, particularly after coming off of a sprint, such as a National Novel Writing Month activity in April, July or November.

I have to force myself into the chair and say just write. It doesn’t matter the result, and then the looseness of freewriting without the annoying boundaries of the internal editor or the need to write something good fall away. Muscle memory takes over, and I count the laps and the words, getting somewhere just because I showed up.

It’s habit, discipline, practice and wanting to change shape—fit in body and fit in my writer’s hand—that gives me that running and writing grit.

Top 10 Tips for Writing

In Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals, Writing Motivation on January 14, 2018 at 6:00 pm

2018Planner1

A new year is a great time to think about your writing plans and goals.

Lists are a great way to get motivated and to turn desires into habits—and to get motivated to write, I resort to my top 10.

Over the years, I’ve collected notes about writing processes and habits from magazine articles and books on writing, writing conferences and workshops, and my own personal experiences. I find these notes to be helpful, especially at those times when I feel discouraged, unwilling or stuck.

From these notes, I’ve generated my top 10 tips for writing and rules to live by to make writing a routine and, over time, a habit that I do without thinking or agonizing about it. I don’t want to have ideas and put them on hold because I’m busy, tired or overwhelmed. Instead, I want to show up for writing, finding that once I got started, I have something to say, a poem to write, or descriptions and storylines to add to a work in progress. It can be sticky or rough at first, but once I write, it seems easier to continue and I’m glad I put in the effort.

Top 10 Writing Tips

  • Write as much as you can, setting a writing quota with daily, weekly or monthly goals, such as writing three to four times a week. For example, make it a goal to write for two hours or 1,000 words in a session.
  • Get rid of distractions and the inner critic, which can keep you from writing by serving as excuses to not write or to invite in writer’s block.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration, because the more you practice writing, the easier it is for words and ideas to come to you.
  • Figure out what is most essential for you to write about. Write about what interests you, what you want to learn about and, of course, what you already know.
  • Have more awareness, using all of the senses when making observations to add details to your descriptions. Take notes for later use.
  • Think about where your writing wants to go, realizing that you’re not in total control of it. Trust your subconscious to make connections your conscious mind isn’t ready to or won’t necessarily be able to make.
  • Realize that rough or first drafts aren’t perfection on the first try. As you write, the story or message unfolds and isn’t readily formed until it’s written. Get the sentences down, then revise and revise again.
  • Accept that writing is supposed to be hard.
  • Focus on the process instead of the results. Enjoy that process.
  • And, last but not least, read. Reading makes you a better writer.

Writing in the New Year!

The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on the best writing advice to find the time, discipline and inspiration to do the hard work of sitting down to write. It’s a great time to make writing a habit through the year of 2018!