Wannabe writers and aspiring authors are always looking for writing tips. I’ve bought books, attended classes, read blogs, listened to podcasts, and printed pointers from the web. But as with the forest for the trees idiom, it can be hard to find useful tips among a wealth of well-meaning advice.
I thought I’d share my top three tips, which, having settled on the subject and structure, sustain me when writing. And the good news is, you don’t have to wander off into the “forest” to read them, they’re published on TallAndTrue.com, an online showcase and forum for writers, readers and publishers. (Click on the “Read more” buttons to read the full articles.)
Write Your First Sentence
To help overcome writer’s block and make a start on writing the first sentences of A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway is said to have reminded himself:
“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
“First sentences” could be said to have a dual purpose. They get the creative juices “flowing” for the writer and they “tease” or “hook” the reader into committing time to read the writer’s finished work.
Keep the Mini Style Guide Handy
With the ubiquitous spread of the Internet, personal computers and digital devices, and DIY websites, blogs and ebooks, the barriers to publishing for aspiring authors and writers are lower today than at any time since the invention of the Gutenberg printing press.
But the barrier between writing and good writing remains high. And it surely explains why so many writers first and foremost thank their editors in forewords, dedications and acknowledgements!
Not all writers have the luxury of editors. Whether you are an aspiring or published author, writing technical reports or project proposals, drafting a C.V. or job application, or even blogging, without an editor, like me, you will likely rely upon weighty reference tomes, Google searches and online grammar apps for editorial guidelines.
Having searched in vain for a simple reference to recommend to writers, Denise O’Hagan ‘gathered together her notes’ from years of working as an editor in the publishing industry and at Black Quill Press to produce the Mini Style Guide. And it is a well organised and accessible resource for all writers.
Use an Online Grammar Checker
For ten years, from 2001 to 2011, I published my local dog club newsletter, which meant:
- I was the writer, editor, and proofreader
- I organised photocopying of the newsletter
- And I handed them out on the weekend.
Sadly, the experience confirmed there’s no “i” in team, nor team in “I”!
One of the most stressful parts of the role was editing and proofreading. I had a spell-checker, but that didn’t help with the incorrect auto-completion of “there”, “their” and “they’re”. I’d leave out definite and indefinite articles (the, a, an) and mix-up my prepositions (in, on, at). And as for apostrophes, while I knew the rules, I’d often slip up with “it’s” instead of possessive “its”.
There were many grammatical errors, typos and howlers over the ten years I published the newsletter. In my defence, I caught most of them during the final read — after I’d photocopied it! Oh, how I wish I’d had my online editor and proofreader friend, Grammarly, back then.
My Three Writing Tips
There you have it, my three writing tips. Hopefully, along with your great idea and a healthy dose of patience, persistence and belief, they will help you with your writing.
And remember, as the writer Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” So use these tips and start writing and sharing your untold story!
© 2018 Robert Fairhead
NB. You might also be interested in First Sentences on Instagram (August 2018), where I share more of my favourite single #firstsentences posted to Instagram.
Welcome to the blog posts and selected writing of a middle-aged dad and dog owner. Among other things, Robert is an editor and writer at Tall And True, an online showcase and forum for writers, readers and publishers. In 2020, he published his first collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story (available from Amazon).