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Knowing what separates good writing from bad writing is a challenge that every author faces at one time or another in his or her career. With an overwhelming amount of advice available on how to improve writing, it can be hard to decipher what is truly helpful. Below are the top twenty pieces of advice on how to improve writing from Reddit users.
1. Read your work out loud.When we read our work out loud, we might hear things that don’t sound right that we wouldn’t have noticed if we had only done our editing in our heads. This advice comes from Esvadude.
2. Vary the length of your sentence. Originally said by Gary Provost, Jglusk, reiterates that by varying the length of your sentences, you create rhythm and flow. If each sentence is the same length, the reader gets bored and the story drones on monotonously. Readers need a variety of sentences so that they are engaged without getting lost in too many details.
3. Don’t use “thought” words. This advice comes originally from Chuck Palahniuk posted by Gabrielle1106. Many writers have the tendency to tell the reader what is happening in a story instead of showing it. In this article, readers are encouraged to forget saying things like “Mary was worried,” and replace it with, “Mary paced around the wrong, wringing her clammy hands as her eyes darted incessantly at the slow-moving hands of the clock.” As Palahniuk puts it, writers should “unpack” their sentences and describe the actions of the characters instead of writing about their thoughts.
4. Don’t hold back. Originally a list of 8 writing tips by the late, great Kurt Vonnegut, IdenticalThings shared this information. The basic message behind this list is not to hold back. In the repost, Vonnegut encourages writers to start as close to the end as possible and give as much information as possible as soon as possible. The main idea behind this advice is that each sentence should have a purpose to either reveal information or advance the plot.
This list focuses mainly on what readers are looking for. Writers should write for only one person but use the time of a stranger in such a way that they don’t feel it is wasted. A good way to do this is to give the reader at least one character they can root for and to make every character want at least one thing, even if it is just a glass of water. Vonnegut also encourages writers to be sadists; characters must face hardships and either overcome them or die trying. It is the only way they will know their true strength.
5. Avoid using an adverb after she/he said in dialogue. Credited to Wrath4771, the dialogue itself should convey the intent behind it and shouldn’t require an adverb. If your dialogue requires adverbs to convey the meaning or intent, it isn’t clear enough. Try reading the dialogue out loud and if the meaning doesn’t come across, it may need to be reworded.
6. Don’t use words unless you know what they mean. Western_eye tells writers that if they have to guess the meaning of a word, they shouldn’t be using it. Too often we understand a vague notion of a word without understanding what it actually means. This is dangerous in writing as it could mean the difference between a character ogling a pretty woman and mooning over her.
7. Develop your characters. It’s tempting to write only about perfect, flawless characters who go through and come out of each and every situation gracefully, but this creates a boring, static story, according to Redvixenx. Try to give them room to grow or you will find yourself without room to write.
8. Brevity. Simply stated by Thencaapawardgoesto brevity goes a long way. Readers have a short attention span and you will lose them with too much detail. Try to be as concise as possible while still moving the story along. If you don’t need a description or an action, don’t use it. It will weigh the story down and turn the reader off.
9. Think of a skirt- long enough to cover the important things but short enough to keep things interesting from Furby_furb. When writing on a certain topic, there’s a balance between too much detail and not enough. The writer must convey the most important parts of the topic without going into too much detail, effectively losing the reader. All points should be made with the fewest words possible while still giving all information.
10. Type a good book. When you are stumped and cant’ seem to produce anything, try typing out one of your favorite stories, says Nernmau5 . This allows you to get a feel for the flow and rhythm of a well written story and will help you create one of your own.
11. Don’t procrastinate. Surpassing_disasters Many people allow themselves to be overwhelmed by how much there is to do and often don’t know where to begin. The most important thing a writer can do is to begin. You can always go back and edit or change things around but you can’t do anything if you don’t first get started.
12. Read. Fusepark One of the most important things you can do to improve your own writing is read the work of other writers, especially those that have a writing style you want to emulate.
13. Write what you don’t know. Most people are told to write only about things they know very well but really good writing comes from pushing your comfort zone and writing about things that you don’t know or understand. It forces you to reach out and immerse yourself in a different point of view.
14. Be original. Don’t use a word, phrase, simile, etc that you are used to seeing in print. If you are already used to it, it means that your readers are also likely used to it. You don’t want to bore your readers with the same things they have been reading until it is familiar. You want to excite them and introduce them to something new. Benbobfoshore
15. Try short exercises to overcome writer’s block. SometimesImSadToo Try doing exercises such as listing ten nouns in one column and ten abstract words in another column in order to come up with new metaphors. If nothing else, just keep writing. In order to write something good, you have to write a lot of bad in between.
16. Keep a journal. Urmotherismylover Whenever you read something profound, a quote you like, etc copy it by hand into a notebook. The effect is more lasting than simply copy and paste on a computer and it engages your brain which allows you to emulate the things you are writing down.
17. Proofread. This is usually a writer’s least favorite step but it is so important. TheSportsGuy23 many people get so caught up in writing that they lose miss mistakes or inconsistencies in their work. Proofreading is essential to writing better. After all, all good writing is really just rewriting.
18. Don’t edit as you go Notannieagain It’s tempting to correct a sentence or reword an awkward phrase while you are still writing but it disrupts the flow of your idea. Just get it all down first and go back later to rewrite it.
19. Study. Dystopianpark Boring people write boring things. Study as many topics as possible as often as possible. The more you know, the more your characters and your story will know.
20. Learn how to break up paragraphs. Sirisian Many people arbitrarily break up their work into paragraphs without really understanding that each paragraph creates a flow and a rhythm. Don’t just end a paragraph because it looks too long. Make sure it’s a good place in the story for a break.