Monday, February 08, 2010

8 Secrets to Extraordinary Writing

Extraordinary writing is one of the most important skills to acquire if you intend to make a career as a wordsmith. Having good writing skills is a must. There are no short cuts to excellent writing. Either you are a master craftsman or you are a humdrum hack at best. The choice is squarely yours.

Use the following secrets in your journey to writing attention grabbing articles.

  • Learn to write well. Give your craft excellent form by learning different writing techniques and styles. Writing for the web is quite different than writing for a magazine or newspaper. Create a diverse writing portfolio. This gives you the ability to write for different mediums, thus making you more marketable than your competition. Learn to write well, or not to write at all. - John Dryden, Essay on Satire

  • Practice, practice, practice! Set aside time to write daily. Write at least 1200 words a day even if you do not have anything specific to write. This helps to sharpen your skills and correct any errors you are making. Practice, practice, practice writing. Writing is a craft that requires both talent and acquired skills. You learn by doing, by making mistakes and then seeing where you went wrong. - Jeffrey A. Carver, American science fiction author.

  • Keep your eyes and ears open for inspiration. Your inspiration can originate from a conversation, a song, a line in a book, or even a Chinese take out menu. The discipline is to be aware of your surroundings at all times. As a writer practices awareness, the mind disciplines itself to the point where awareness becomes automatic. The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web. - Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter, sculptor and draughtsman.

  • Rewrite your article. Look for ways to strengthen a sentence, a thought or flow. Rearrange paragraphs if you must. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short.

  • Proofread. Maniacally check for syntax, grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. Your readers will not take you seriously if your articles, essays, or even e-mails are filled with errors. Avoid slang whenever possible, unless its use enhances the piece.

  • Create an interesting first paragraph. It is your article's hook. It is here that your readers will decide if they want to continue reading or move on to another piece. Write your first paragraph last. This gives you an opportunity to customize it to the bulk of your content.

  • Know your audience. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback. You need to know if your readers are excited or falling asleep half way through your article. In the 21st century market, people will not buy content. They will however, buy service. Allow your writing to become flexible and selfless. Writers who feed and entertain their audience will be successful. Your audience gives you everything you need. They tell you. There is no director who can direct you like an audience. - Fanny Brice, American actress, comedienne and singer.

  • Write a thought provoking ending. Your last paragraph should be more than a summary of your article. It should make your readers pause to think about what they just read. If necessary, include a call for action.

Although clever writing and communication takes patience, practice and time, it is without doubt worth the effort. This alone will set you head and shoulders above the mediocre and lukewarm.

Tick tick tick tock. The clock is running. Why are you still here?

Go write!
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