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Five Ways to Help Yourself Be a Better Writer

by Julia A. Keirns

In my many years of writing, I have come across a few things that helped me along the way. I would like to share these bits of advice that tremendously improved my writing.

Number One - Read constantly and consistently. Read the classics, like Dickens and Hemingway. Read Contemporary Fiction as well. Expand your horizons and read something you would not normally read. Read the Bible. Take stories from the Bible and give them contemporary characters and put them in the same situation. Dissect the books. Highlight and code them. Code the dialogue and study it. Code the flashbacks and the descriptive scenes. Study the content and the style of the author. Take notes. Write down things you like about the book and things you don't like. Just make sure it is good quality writing that you choose to study.

Number Two - Travel whenever you can. Take day trips. Most importantly, travel with a notebook and pen. Describe all the smells, sounds, and customs you inquire. Write down everything you see. You will never remember the small details later. Notice the language or slang words used and write down as much as you can about the lifestyles and clothes you observe. Act like a news reporter. Find a story. Dig for information. Ask questions of the people you meet. Pay attention to how they dress, talk, act, play and eat. What do they eat? Describe the food. Find material for stories and articles every where you go. Everything is a story, and everyone has a story. Every place is a potential scene, and every person is a potential character.

Number Three - Hone your mechanics. This is important. Learn your English. Take a class if you must but learn how to spell. Study grammar, punctuation and paragraphing. Get some books on improving your skills. Search the internet. One good example is the old Strunk and White's Elements of Style. It is still relevant today. Never produce or send in anything but the most professional looking manuscripts. And if you don't already know how, learn to use a computer.

Number Four - Become a knowledge sponge. Soak up everything you hear and see. Talk to people. People are fascinating and everyone probably has something fascinating to share. Get your hands on notebooks, tape recorders or whatever you can to record it all. Attend writing workshops and seminars. Put forth as much effort as you can into learning as much as you can. Never stop learning.

And finally -

Number Five - Write. Don't wait until a better tie. Just write. Don't wait until the kids go back to school, or worse yet, until they grow up. Write now. Late at night keep that notebook by your bed. Just do it. Do it now. Try to set a time that you can write something every day. If it must be after the kids go to bed, then be consistent and do it every night on a regular basis. Get that momentum going. Get a "fire in your belly." And don't let anyone put it out. Dream. Enjoy. Think about your writing constantly. Someone once told me that if I go to bed thinking about writing, and wake up thinking about writing, then I am already a writer. So just go sit and stare at a piece of paper until something comes out. No one can do it for you.