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3 Quick Tips to Make You a Better Writer


If I were to offer three pieces of information that can instantly make you a better writer, I would suggest the following:

1. Avoid using a passive voice.

Use an active voice to place the reader closer to the action, heighten tensions, and create a more engaging experience.

Passive Example: He had walked down the hall, where he found a dead body. Now, he stared at it. His pulse began to quicken.

Active Example: He walked down the hall, where he found a dead body. He stared at it. His pulse quickened.

Do you see how the Active Example is punchier and quicker-paced?

Exceptions to the rule: context matters! Sometimes, it's okay to use a passive voice. Using a passive voice can be useful for re-capping information in a story, or when speaking specifically about a past event. It can be useful during transitions of time, scenes, chapters, and exposition. As well, you may take the artistic liberty to use a passive voice as the narrator for your story. So much in writing revolves around context. Use your creative intuition and best editorial judgment.

2. Know your audience! Speaking of context...

Knowing your audience is important in writing both fiction and non-fiction. When writing, avoid using obscure colloquial phrases. If you are writing epic fantasy, it wouldn't make sense for one of your alien characters in this fantastical world to shout: "this sword is fire!" And your hardcore sci-fi readers may find it odd when the admiral of your spaceship, Cylo Cyborgbob, asks a crew member: "were you raised in a barn?" Even in non-fiction writing, colloquial phrases muddy your writing, for they place an added layer of difficulty on a reader's comprehension, and are best avoided.

Understanding your audience's tolerance for suspension of disbelief is crucial to knowing your audience. If you are aspiring to be the next Louis L'Amour, avoid surprising your readers with an alien invasion during the third act of your country-western shoot 'em up. If you are writing an epic grimdark saga, and spent six books convincing your readers that the characters will suffer for their mistakes- and their successes- don't end your story like a happy fairy tale, where the bad guys get what they deserve and the good guys win big.

Exceptions to the rule: Once again- context! What if the magical sword was, in fact, on fire? What if Cylo Cyborgbob was born on a planet famous for its exemplary equestrian species? Or, what if your writing style is more akin to the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson? What if a more informal approach suits your personality or the feel of your story? You're the author- you decide!

3. Stay consistent!

Practice makes perfect. I know in today's society we are berated with hustle culture jargon and rhetoric on a daily basis. There is a simple truth to consistency, however. The only way to get better at any skill is by practicing that skill, and writing is no different.

It may be a slow road. It may be a frustrating road, but, I can assure you, from personal experience, the tried and true method of consistent, focused, practice will yield results. I went from a writer who makes the mistakes I talked about in this blog post, to spotting those mistakes as they're being made and course-correcting my prose, while in the process of writing. I still fall short. Everyone does it from time to time. Mistakes happen, especially in the heat of a creative trance! (That's what editing is for.)

All the same, looking back at the start of my journey, when I didn't know anything about formatting- let alone grammar, style, tone, etc.,- I see mistakes in my old work. I recognize them from a mile away. I can see the progress with my own eyes.

Exceptions to the rule: none. Consistency is a cornerstone of competency. If you want to be a great writer, you have to write!

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