How to Be an Effective Writer

As an aspiring writer, you want to get your point across without much difficulty, and that takes intentionality. Forget about being a “good” writer. That’s subjective. You want to be an effective writer and accomplish what you set out to do. Here are five tips for how to be an effective writer:

1. Read. A lot. My mom used to read the dictionary to me on long car rides, quizzing me on random words. While I don’t think that this is necessary, it helped me win the 6th Grade Spelling Bee. Words are your main tool in writing, and if you don’t build your vocabulary through reading, you greatly limit how you can express yourself.

2. Brush up on grammar. Get a decent grasp of general English grammar, but I warn you – once you understand the “rules” better, you realize how flexible many of them are. Nonetheless, you have to learn the principles behind them before you just start poetically bending all of them.

3. Pre-write. Brainstorm, write rough sketches, draft up lists, do that silly spider-thing you learned how to do in Grade School (where you connect all the ideas in the bubbles to main bubble, which looks like a spider’s body). Take some time to figure out what you really want to write about. Then develop a structure around it, with a general direction of where you want to go. Structure gives you something in which you can exercise your creativity without getting lost on a tangent.

4. Write. I try to do this every day, but sometimes don’t succeed. I make it a priority to post a blog every day, so that even if I don’t write something every day, I’m pretty much constantly revising and editing for my blog. This keeps me sharp, even when I’m not drafting brand-new stuff.

5. Re-write. Once you write something, you need to review it, and maybe have someone else whom you trust review it. Now, here’s the tricky part that I really struggle with. If something stinks, throw it away. You don’t, of course, lose the general theme of what you wrote (unless that stinks, too), but this helps you avoid the temptation to salvage a sentence or paragraph that you think has a good ring to it. Your rough draft won’t (and shouldn’t) cut it. Use it to help you write something new. That means actually re-writing the whole thing, giving the piece an entirely new flavor and style. This step may be the most important one in the writing process – throwing stuff out.

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