Writing Well: Advice for the Hopeful Author

Advice for the Wanna-Be Author

Read! Read! Read!   

Read anything and everything in front of you. And then read it again.  Reading anything is better than reading nothing, but to get the most out of your reading time, read the great minds, the writers’ writers, the award-winning, and the unusual.

CS Lewis: Pick up any book or essay, fiction or non-, and you won’t go wrong. He is beloved world-round for his Narnia series and Space Trilogy, though we are obsessed with Till We Have Faces and A Grief Observed.

Lewis is the master of the three Cs of great writing: clean, clear, and concise.

Flannery O’Connor: if you love short stories, horror movies, Aesop’s fables, or wild and wacky tales, you’ll love O’Connor.

O’Connor is the master at picking the perfect words to tell a wild story.

Mortimer Adler’s How to Read A BookSkilled readers make skilled writers, so check out this book to learn how to really dig deep into reading a book. This is a classic.

Write! Write! Write!

Just start writing. Write about your day. Write about your dog, your kids, your boss. Write a three line poem about the sun. Write a description of your coffee mug. Write a how-to essay on changing the vacuum cleaner bag. And then rewrite it. Can you state it differently? More concisely? More accurately?

Try writing without adjectives.

Try writing without metaphors.

Try writing only in a positive voice (without saying not, no, but, or however.)

Read about a philosophic or mathematical theory (let’s say Kant’s categorical imperative or chaos theory), and then write about it, describing it in a way that a child can read and understand.

Write a review about a book you read. And then rewrite it three times to see how clean, clear, and concise you can make it.

Ask for help.

If you grammar is less than stellar, your reading comprehension lower than you’d like, or your capacity to communicate via the written word is, um, caveman-like, then ask for help.

Here are a few of our favorite resources:

Grammar Girl podcast:  Mignon Forgarty explains and explores tough grammar questions with fun and flair.

Strunk and White’s Element of Style: This classic was first published in 1920 and is now in its fourth edition. It is SSW’s (and everyone else’s) go-to guide on style and voice.

Contact us: We offer non-judgey, non-snobby coaching sessions for people who want to hone their writing skills or need help completing a writing project.



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