12+ Wannabe writers and aspiring authors are always looking for writing tips. I've bought books, attended classes, read blogs, listened to podcasts, and printed pointers from the web. But as with the forest for the trees idiom, it can be hard to find useful tips among a wealth of well-meaning advice.
I thought I'd share my top three tips, which, having settled on the subject and structure, sustain me when writing. And the good news is, you don't have to wander off into the "forest" to read them, they're published here on Tall And True.
Write Your First Sentence
To help overcome writer's block and make a start on writing the first sentences of A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway is said to have reminded himself:
"Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know."
"First sentences" could be said to have a dual purpose. They get the creative juices "flowing" for the writer and they "tease" or "hook" the reader into committing time to read the writer's finished work.
Keep the Mini Style Guide Handy
With the ubiquitous spread of the Internet, personal computers and digital devices, and DIY websites, blogs and ebooks, the barriers to publishing for aspiring authors and writers are lower today than at any time since the invention of the Gutenberg printing press.
But the barrier between writing and good writing remains high. And it surely explains why so many writers first and foremost thank their editors in forewords, dedications and acknowledgements!
Not all writers have the luxury of editors. Whether you are an aspiring or published author, writing technical reports or project proposals, drafting a C.V. or job application, or even blogging, without an editor, like me, you will likely rely upon weighty reference tomes, Google searches and online grammar apps for editorial guidelines.
Having searched in vain for a simple reference to recommend to writers, Denise O’Hagan ‘gathered together her notes’ from years of working as an editor in the publishing industry and at Black Quill Press to produce the Mini Style Guide. And it is a well organised and accessible resource for all writers.
Use an Online Grammar Checker
For ten years, from 2001 to 2011, I published my local dog club newsletter, which meant:
- I was the writer, editor, and proofreader
- I organised photocopying of the newsletter
- And I handed them out on the weekend.
Sadly, the experience confirmed there's no "i" in team, nor team in "I"!
One of the most stressful parts of the role was editing and proofreading. I had a spell-checker, but that didn't help with the incorrect auto-completion of "there", "their" and "they're". I'd leave out definite and indefinite articles (the, a, an) and mix-up my prepositions (in, on, at). And as for apostrophes, while I knew the rules, I'd often slip up with "it's" instead of possessive "its".
There were many grammatical errors, typos and howlers over the ten years I published the newsletter. In my defence, I caught most of them during the final read -- after I'd photocopied it! Oh, how I wish I'd had my online editor and proofreader friend, Grammarly, back then.
My Three Writing Tips
There you have it, my three writing tips, with links. Hopefully, along with your great idea and a healthy dose of patience, persistence and belief, they will help you with your writing.
Tall And True is an online showcase and forum for writers, readers and publishers.
And remember, as the writer Maya Angelou said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
Do you have an untold story inside you? Share and showcase it on Tall And True!
© 2018 Robert Fairhead
A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story, and in 2021 Twelve Furious Months, twelve short stories written for the Furious Fiction writing competition.
Outside of writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.