Writers and bloggers in need of conventional advice on grammar and style can turn to an endless number of books, experienced industry professionals, and websites for guidance. These sources will lead you to rule after rule about what to do and what not to do.
Knowing the rules is an important part of the process to becoming a good writer, so important that I’ll even share my favorite books on the topic a little later – but before I do that I’d like to give you the more unique tricks I’ve picked up over the years.
#1. Break the rules. Wait, didn’t I just say that knowing the rules is important? Well, it’s important to know them so you can break them – not all the time, mind you, but don’t let the rules of writing stop you from following your instincts.
A writer friend of mine recently came to me wondering if she should abandon a well-written 80,000 word manuscript she’d put her heart into simply because she broke the “write what you know” rule. (Her story takes place in a country she has never actually lived in.) … I reminded her that J.K. Rowling had never been to Hogwarts when she wrote Harry Potter and told her to get back to editing.
#2. Get Naked. Did you ever realize that some of your most amazing ideas come to you when you’re in the shower? It isn’t just you – this is a real, well-documented phenomenon. With white noise, no distractions, the flow of cleansing water encouraging the flow of ideas, a feeling of renewal and relaxation – it’s no wonder the shower doubles as a place to brainstorm. Next time you’re stuck, strip down and hop in.
#3. Eavesdrop. In the line at the grocery store or anywhere you find yourself close enough to overhear another person’s conversation, go ahead and tune in. Listening to the natural flow of conversation will help you write realistic dialogue – You can even use scraps of conversation to inspire story ideas. If you can’t hear the conversation, people watch instead. Keeping a small journal and pen with you at all times will help you capture what you observe. If you write fiction, use it for character development. If you’re a blogger, do it as a writing exercise.
#4. Read bad books. Avid readers make good writers but reading poorly written books and blogs once in awhile is just as constructive and worthwhile as reading the classics. This isn’t to boost your own self confidence as a writer, (though it does often have that effect!) – this is a learning exercise. As Catherine Aird once said, “If you can’t be a good example, be a horrible warning.”… Make note of what exactly it is about the blog or book that makes you cringe and then make sure you don’t commit the same sins.
#5. Don’t write. If you feel like you’ve been staring at a blinking cursor for the better part of the day, it’s time to get up from the desk and go do something else. Visit the shop downtown that you usually drive by, go talk to the neighbor that always waves to you, sign up for the belly dancing class you feel too shy to join, or go check out a library book on something that recently caught your interest. Living life and following your curiosity results in a wider variety of experiences and it’s those experiences which add color, diversity and flavor to your writing.
Three books to check out: