The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library
5 Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills
Posted 3 months ago by April SPosted in Arts, Crafts, & Hobbies, eBooks & eAudiobooks, Education, Fiction, Literature, Poetry & Graphic Novels and Self-help & Spirituality | Tagged with aspiring writers, authors and reading, authorship, character development, characterization, compostion, creative writing, creative writing techniques, creative writing tips, editing, English Grammar, Fiction - Technique, grammar, literary criticism, novel writing techniques, plotting, punctuation, reading, revising, spelling, stories, story ideas, story writing, story writing tips, vocabulary, word choice, wording, writer's block, writing, writing mechanics, writing skills, writing style and writing tips
So, you want to be a writer? Or maybe you just want to improve your writing skills? Where do you start? What can you do to improve your writing and become a more effective communicator and/or successful writer? Let's start with the basics.
Tip 1: Writing Mechanics Matter
Believe it or not, writing mechanics still matter, even in the age of texts and tweets. Let's say you send in an article to a magazine for consideration. Odds are pretty high they'll be wading through a huge stack of submissions and if your piece is hard to read or contains a lot of grammatical errors it's going to end up in the rejection pile. When trying to become a successful communicator or writer, it's definitely helpful to spend time brushing up on the basics - spelling, punctuation, and grammar. After all, who remembers all of the things we were taught in grade school anyway?
Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power. ~ Joan Didion
Research Papers, Grammar, and Punctuation ...
Improve Your Writing (6th Edition) by Ron Fry
From selecting a topic and conducting research to developing an outline, writing drafts, proofreading, and more, Improve Your Writing takes you step-by-step through the creation of a successful research paper. Applicable to any kind of writing addressing any subject matter, author Ron Fry's fundamental and systematic approach goes beyond one size fits all checklists to offer real advice that can be adapted according to your individual needs and situations. Ideal for anyone hoping to establish essential research, organization, and writing skills, the text empowers you to excel in school, on essay tests, and in life.
The Cooper Hill Stylebook: A Guide to Writing and Revision (Third Edition) by Gregory Heyworth and Rosette Liberman
Now in its 3rd edition, The Cooper Hill Stylebook is the classic high school and college revision manual. It's a practical, step-by-step how-to for every writer. Based on 70 years of experience in high school and university classrooms, The Stylebook helps teachers cut correcting time in half and turns students into independent learners with all the revision expertise they need immediately at their fingertips.
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation: An Easy-to-Use Guide with Clear Rules, Real-World Examples, and Reproducible Quizzes by Jane Straus, Lester Kaufman, and Tom Stern
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation is a concise, entertaining workbook and guide to English grammar, punctuation, and usage. This user-friendly resource includes simple explanations of grammar, punctuation, and usage; scores of helpful examples; dozens of reproducible worksheets; and pre- and post-tests to help teach grammar to students of all ages. Appropriate for virtually any age range, this authoritative guide makes learning English grammar and usage simple and fun.
Tip 2: Word Choice is Essential
Every form of communication benefits from proper word choice. To be a successful writer, avoid using wording that's awkward, vague, or unclear. After all, you don't want the reader left wondering what you meant. Depending on the words you select, you'll either grab the reader's attention right away or bore them to tears, so choose your words wisely.
Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly -- they'll go through anything. You read and you're pierced. ~ Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Good words are worth much, and cost little. ~ George Herbert
Resources to help you find the right word ...
Abused, Confused, And Misused Words: A Writer's Guide to Usage, Spelling, Grammar, and Sentence Structure by Mary Embree
Have you been putting bullion in your soup? Is incorrect spelling starting to have a negative effect on your term papers? Do you wonder what someone is inferring when they tell you to pick up a dictionary? These are just a few of the commonly misunderstood words discussed and explained in Abused, Confused, and Misused Words, an entertaining and informative look at the ever-changing nature of the English language. An alphabetical list of words that are frequently misspelled or misused is accompanied by a style guide to usage rules that tells you how and why they can be broken. Also included is a collection of 1,000 new and inventive words, and nearly 30,000 more words are discussed in a section dealing with word roots and how they are used in modern language.
Anyone who is intrigued by language, who is fascinated by words, or who simply wants to use our language clearly and effectively will enjoy this delightful, eye-opening collection.
Roget's Thesaurus of Words for Writers: Over 2,300 Emotive, Evocative, Descriptive Synonyms, Antonyms, and Related Terms Every Writer Should Know by David Olsen, Michelle Bevilacqua, Justin Cord Hayes, and Robert Bly
Whether you're crafting the next great American novel or pounding away at a last-minute blog entry, there will come a time in the process when you struggle to find just the perfect word or phrase. Under the time-tested banner of Roget's Thesaurus, this collection will quickly become the most essential tool on your desk when you're working on your next piece. Far from an ordinary word list, each entry in this book is organized by meaning and offers a list of compelling word choices that relate to the ideas you'd like to use. It also provides a pronunciation guide, definition, antonyms, synonyms, and a sample sentence for each listing. Filled with thousands of unique and compelling words, this book will help you find inspiration, expand your vocabulary, and create one-of-a-kind sentences for any writing assignment.
With Roget's Thesaurus of Words for Writers, you'll set your projects in the right direction and engage your audience--one word at a time.
The Ultimate Guide to Powerful Language.
If you've ever fumbled while trying to use a big word to impress a crowd, you know what it's like to be poorly spoken. The fear of mispronouncing or misusing complex words is real and leaves many of us consigned to the lower levels of the English Language. The secret to eloquence, however, lies in simplicity-the ability to use ordinary words in extraordinary ways.
The Well-Spoken Thesaurus is your guide to eloquence, replacing the ordinary with the extraordinary. While a common thesaurus provides only synonyms as mere word-for-word equivalents, The Well-Spoken Thesaurus is filled with dynamic reinventions of standard words and phrases.
To be remembered for your words, you need to write with skill and style. Whether you're crafting a novel, composing an email, or creating a technical report, Mastering the Craft of Writing presents 52 practical techniques to improve your prose.
Tip 3: Write Regularly
The most effective way to improve your writing skills is to practice - a lot! Treat writing like a job, take it seriously, and stay on task until you succeed.
Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer. ~ Ray Bradbury
Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy - which many believe goes hand in hand with it - will be dead as well. ~ Margaret Atwood
Help with story ideas, writing exercises, and writer's block ...
The Writer's Idea Thesaurus: An Interactive Guide for Developing Ideas for Novels and Short Stories by Fred White
Endless ideas at your fingertips, and at the turn of a page...
Need an idea for a short story or novel? Look no further than The Writer's Idea Thesaurus. It's far more than a collection of simple writing prompts. You'll find a vast treasury of story ideas inside, organized by subject, theme, and situation categories, and listed alphabetically for easy reference.
Author and award-winning writing instructor Fred White shows you how to build out and customize these ideas to create unique plots that reflect your personal storytelling sensibilities, making The Writer's Idea Thesaurus an invaluable tool for generating creative ideas and vanquishing writer's block--for good.
Inside you'll find:
2,000 unique and dynamic story ideas perfect for novels and short stories of any genre or writing style.
Twenty major idea categories, such as The Invasion of X, The Transformation of X into Y, Escape from X, The Curse of X, and more Multiple situations that further refine the major categories, such as The Creation of Artificial Life, The Descent Into Madness, Love in the Workplace, The Journey to a Forgotten Realm, and more.
Invaluable advice on how to customize each idea.
The Writer's Idea Thesaurus is an interactive story generator that opens the door to thousands of new story arcs and plotlines.
A collection of cures for writer's block, plotting and characterization issues, and other ailments writers face when completing a novel or memoir, prescribed by the director of creative writing at Ohio University.
People want to write the book they know is inside of them, but they run into stumbling blocks that trouble everyone from beginners to seasoned writers. Drawing on his years of teaching at both the university level and at writing workshops across the country, Professor Dinty W. Moore dons his book-doctor hat to present an authoritative guide to curing the issues that truly plague writers at all levels. His hard-hitting handbook provides inspiring solutions for diagnoses such as character anemia, flat plot, and silent voice, and is peppered with flashes of Moore's signature wit and unique take on the writing life.
Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers by Elizabeth Ayres
Where's your wave of creativity? If you want to learn how to write, Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers is the very first writing book designed especially for beginning writers who yearn to write more expressively. Written with warmth and wit by internationally acclaimed writer and teacher Elizabeth Ayres, this 15th anniversary edition of a classic writing how-to book makes the creative process safe, easy and fun while honoring its spiritual depth and mystery. Elizabeth shows you how it's done. With step-by-step instructions and easy-to-follow writing exercises, you'll be writing non-stop from the very first page, even if you've never written before. It's just like having a personal writing coach. You can learn how to be a writer. Throw away those endless lists of writing prompts.
Learn how to discover your own ideas with these break-through writing exercises that transform fundamental writing principles into concrete writing techniques you can use over and over, forever, whether you want to learn how to write fiction, nonfiction, poetry -- or something that doesn't even have a name yet. Unlike other writing books, Writing the Wave couples inspiring writing exercises with expert and compassionate advice, to minimize the fears and maximize the joys of writing. And more advanced writers looking for a jumpstart will appreciate recovering their free-flowing creative wellspring. There's a vast ocean of inspiration within you. The surf's up! The water's warm! Are you ready to take the plunge?
Find rock-solid story ideas before you start writing. Anyone who has been hamster-wheeling a story idea for years or has hundreds of pages exploring various approaches on their hard drive knows that there must be a better way. There is.
Young adult novelist Denise Jaden shows exactly how to create the captivating stories that prevent dispiriting wasted time. Busting the visitation from the muses, myth, she shows that inspiration is a skill writers can learn by understanding how story ideas work (or don't), fertilizing the ground for fresh and sound ideas, and moving swiftly through stuck points.
Practical and inspiring, Jaden's approach celebrates the imaginative sparks that make innovations of all kinds possible while pinpointing the precise tools writers need to fan their unique creative flames.
Tip 4: Read More
Experienced writers point to reading more as one of the keys to successful writing. After all, how can you write well if you haven't read much? How can you have a decent grasp of language and the written word? Read biographies, literature, mysteries, science-fiction, and everything in-between, but most of all - read what you enjoy.
Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window. ~ William Faulkner
If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. ~ Stephen King
Books About Reading & Books ...
How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines (Revised Edition) by Thomas C. Foster
A thoroughly revised and updated edition of Thomas C. Foster’s classic guide—a lively and entertaining introduction to literature and literary basics, including symbols, themes and contexts, that shows you how to make your everyday reading experience more rewarding and enjoyable.
While many books can be enjoyed for their basic stories, there are often deeper literary meanings interwoven in these texts. How to Read Literature Like a Professor helps us to discover those hidden truths by looking at literature with the eyes—and the literary codes-of the ultimate professional reader, the college professor.
What does it mean when a literary hero is traveling along a dusty road? When he hands a drink to his companion? When he’s drenched in a sudden rain shower?
Ranging from major themes to literary models, narrative devices and form, Thomas C. Foster provides us with a broad overview of literature—a world where a road leads to a quest, a shared meal may signify a communion, and rain, whether cleansing or destructive, is never just a shower-and shows us how to make our reading experience more enriching, satisfying, and fun.
This revised edition includes new chapters, a new preface and epilogue, and incorporates updated teaching points that Foster has developed over the past decade.
How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton
What makes a work of literature good or bad? How freely can the reader interpret it? Could a nursery rhyme like Baa Baa Black Sheep be full of concealed loathing, resentment, and aggression? In this accessible, delightfully entertaining book, Terry Eagleton addresses these intriguing questions and a host of others. How to Read Literature is the book of choice for students new to the study of literature and for all other readers interested in deepening their understanding and enriching their reading experience.
In a series of brilliant analyses, Eagleton shows how to read with due attention to tone, rhythm, texture, syntax, allusion, ambiguity, and other formal aspects of literary works. He also examines broader questions of character, plot, narrative, the creative imagination, the meaning of fictionality, and the tension between what works of literature say and what they show. Unfailingly authoritative and cheerfully opinionated, the author provides useful commentaries on classicism, Romanticism, modernism, and postmodernism along with spellbinding insights into a huge range of authors, from Shakespeare and J. K. Rowling to Jane Austen and Samuel Beckett.
A Year of Reading: A Month-By-Month Guide to Classics and Crowd-Pleasers for You or Your Book Group by Elisabeth Ellington and Jane Freimiller
Desire a book to cozy up with by a wintery window? How about an addictive page-turner for sunbathing on the beach? Thousands of new books are published each year, and if you're a book lover or just book curious choosing what to read next can seem like an impossible task.
A Year of Reading relieves the anxiety by helping you find just the right read, and includes fun and interactive subcategories for each choice, including: Description and history, Extra credit, Did You Know? Have You Seen the Film? and more! A Year of Reading also gives advice and tips on how to join or start a book group, and where to look for other reading recommendations. Perfect for clubs or passionate individuals, this beautiful and concise second edition is the essential guide to picking up your next inspiring, entertaining, and thought-provoking book.
Am I Alone Here? Notes On Living To Read And Reading To Live by Peter Orner
"Stories, both my own and those I've taken to heart, make up whoever it is that I've become," Peter Orner writes in this collection of essays about reading, writing, and living. Orner reads and writes everywhere he finds himself: a hospital cafeteria, a coffee shop in Albania, or a crowded bus in Haiti. The result is a book of unlearned meditations that stumbles into memoir.
Among the many writers Orner addresses are Isaac Babel and Zora Neale Hurston, both of whom told their truths and were silenced; Franz Kafka, who professed loneliness but craved connection; Robert Walser, who spent the last twenty-three years of his life in a Swiss insane asylum, working at being crazy; and Juan Rulfo, who practiced the difficult art of silence. Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, Yasunari Kawabata, Saul Bellow, Mavis Gallant, John Edgar Wideman, William Trevor, and Václav Havel make appearances, as well as the poet Herbert Morris about whom almost nothing is known.
An elegy for an eccentric late father, and the end of a marriage, Am I Alone Here? is also a celebration of the possibility of renewal. At once personal and panoramic, this book will inspire readers to return to the essential stories of their own lives.
The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books edited by Jeff Martin and C. Max Magee
The way we absorb information has changed dramatically. Edison's phonograph has been reincarnated as the iPod. Celluloid went digital. But books, for the most part, have remained the same-until now. And while music and movies have undergone an almost Darwinian evolution, the literary world now faces a revolution, a sudden seismic change in the way we buy, produce, and, yes, read books. Scholars, journalists, and publishers have turned their brains inside out in the effort to predict what lies ahead, but who better to comment on the future of the book than those who are driven to write them?
In The Late American Novel, Jeff Martin and C. Max Magee gather some of today's finest writers to consider the sea change that is upon them. Lauren Groff imagines an array of fantastical futures for writers, from poets with groupies to novelists as vending machines. Rivka Galchen writes about the figurative and literal death of paper. Joe Meno expounds upon the idea of a book as a place set permanently aside for the imagination, regardless of format. These and other original essays by Reif Larsen, Benjamin Kunkel, Victoria Patterson, and many more provide a timely and much-needed commentary on this compelling cultural crossroad.
Tip 5: Write, Read, and Revise
Experienced writers may tell you that the key to success is finishing something. The other part of the equation is revision. Opt for being more succinct and less wordy, because padding your writing with words that serve no real purpose does not add value. Writing is a process, it involves work, and a lot of revising to get a piece publisher ready.
The best advice I can give on this is, once it's done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you're ready, pick it up and read it, as if you've never read it before. If there are things you aren't satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that's revision. ~ Neil Gaiman
"Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it's where the game is won or lost. That idea is hard to accept. We all have an emotional equity in our first draft; we can't believe that it wasn't born perfect. But the odds are close to 100 percent that it wasn't." William Zinsser, On Writing Well
Composition, Writing Style, and Editing ...
Keys to Great Writing: Mastering the Elements of Composition and Revision by Stephen Wilbers
If you're ready to empower your writing but are unsure of where to start, let Keys to Great Writing show you the way. Award-winning author and veteran writing coach Stephen Wilbers provides invaluable instruction on every aspect of the craft, from word choice and sentence structure to organization and revision.
To the Point: A Dictionary of Concise Writing by Robert Hartwell Fiske
Perfect for anyone who wants to communicate more effectively, this must-have guide to writing succinctly covers the basics, provides alternatives to thousands of wordy phrases and helps writers build a more concise vocabulary.
From the author of the forthcoming Enlightenment Now (February 2018), a short and entertaining book on the modern art of writing well by New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker
Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care?
In The Sense of Style, the bestselling linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker answers these questions and more. Rethinking the usage guide for the twenty-first century, Pinker doesn’t carp about the decline of language or recycle pet peeves from the rulebooks of a century ago. Instead, he applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.
In this short, cheerful, and eminently practical book, Pinker shows how writing depends on imagination, empathy, coherence, grammatical knowhow, and an ability to savor and reverse engineer the good prose of others. He replaces dogma about usage with reason and evidence, allowing writers and editors to apply the guidelines judiciously, rather than robotically, being mindful of what they are designed to accomplish.
Filled with examples of great and gruesome prose, Pinker shows us how the art of writing can be a form of pleasurable mastery and a fascinating intellectual topic in its own right.
The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne
During his years as an editor at the Big Five publishing houses, as an independent publisher, as a literary agent both at a major Hollywood talent agency and as head of Genre Management Inc., and as a bestselling co-writer and ghostwriter, Shawn Coyne created a methodology called The Story Grid to teach the editing craft.
Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron
Following on the heels of Lisa Cron's breakout first book, Wired for Story, this writing guide reveals how to use cognitive storytelling strategies to build a scene-by-scene blueprint for a riveting story.
It’s every novelist’s greatest fear: pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into writing hundreds of pages only to realize that their story has no sense of urgency, no internal logic, and so is a page one rewrite.
The prevailing wisdom in the writing community is that there are just two ways around this problem: pantsing (winging it) and plotting (focusing on the external plot). Story coach Lisa Cron has spent her career discovering why these methods don’t work and coming up with a powerful alternative, based on the science behind what our brains are wired to crave in every story we read (and it’s not what you think).
In Story Genius Cron takes you, step-by-step, through the creation of a novel from the first glimmer of an idea, to a complete multilayered blueprint—including fully realized scenes—that evolves into a first draft with the authority, richness, and command of a riveting sixth or seventh draft.
Looking for more information and tips on writing?
Toledo Library Blog Posts on Writing
- Writers on Writing: Tips for Aspiring Writers
- Writer's Block
- Memoir Writing Resources
- Top 5 Reasons to Join a Writing Group
- Strategies for Success: Top 5 Blogging Tips
Writing Tips from the Web
- 27 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills and Escape Content Mediocrity - Enchanting Marketing
- How To Improve Your Writing Skills At Work - Forbes
- Why Writers Need to Read if They Want to Be Good - Goins, Writer
- How to Improve Writing Skills in 15 Easy Steps - Grammarly
- What Makes Bad Writing Bad? - The Guardian
- The 34 Best Tools for Improving Your Writing Skills - HubSpot
- Write Like The Hustle: The Boring Stuff About Writing That No One Talks About - The Hustle
- 150 Resources to Help You Write Better, Faster, and More Persuasively - OEBb (Open Education Database)
- 16 Easy Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills - WordStream
- 7 Tools For Pacing A Novel & Keeping Your Story Moving At The Right Pace - Writer's Digest
- Word Choice - The Writing Center