(Average read time: 6 minutes)
It was Friday night and I was at happy hour with coworkers after my first week at a new job. As it came to an end, I made my way to the bar to convince a girl I just met to give me her number.
The conversation started off great, but after a few minutes she puts her index finger to my lips and says, “Shhh, has anyone ever told you that you talk too much? Less is more.”
She thanked me for the drink and walked away.
And just like that, it was over as quickly as it began.
Little did she know, but that’s one of the most important pieces of advice about communicating (and writing) I ever received.
13 Tips to Being a Better Writer
1) Stretch awkwardly
I think the yogis are on to something. In the past few months, I have explored new ways to relax my body and calm my mind. Before going to sleep and just after waking, I stretch and spend a few minutes focused on breathing. Do I know what I’m doing? Probably not. I think this counts as meditation. If not, that’s cool too. I know that it helps clear my mind so I’ll keep doing it even though my 6’3″ dad bod probably looks a bit odd doing the Cow Face Pose.
2) Write a lot
All of my books and blog posts were written in the past two years. I’ve self-published 5 books, blog posts, and approximately 100,000 words over that time. My writing has improved significantly from my first book and definitely from that dreadful moment at the bar. My average blog post is 600-800 words – that’s 255,000 words per year if all I do is write one blog post per day. That’s about 2-3 full length novels. Write a lot. Then write some more.
3) Less is more
I get it! Lesson learned. We can thank the girl at the bar for that. I start every blog post with an average read time. The average person reads about 200 words per minute so I try to keep my posts short and to the point – between 600-1,000 words (3-5 minutes). When I first started writing these posts, some would reach 2,000 words and to quote a famous Facebook meme, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
4) Have a shocking title
A strong title is more eye-catching, but the biggest challenge is being too timid. Most people worry about what others may think. In my recent post, The Shitty Person Checklist, I had a different title in mind, “The Complete Asshole Checklist”, but I wimped out before hitting publish.
5) Bleed with words
I never imagined I would be so open about my divorce because it sucked so bad at the time. Not only am I comfortable about my new relationship status, but I am beginning to embrace it. It’s okay, be vulnerable. Share a personal story.Share a personal story. It can be about divorce, a girl at a bar, or the fight between two dwarfs and your friend.Click To Tweet
Stories allow readers to connect with you. If you can make your reader laugh, cry, smile, or think, you’re off to a good start.
People are like sharks. If they smell blood in the water, they’ll want to check it out. If not, people will switch screens to Facebook.
6) Break the rules
Your words are yours and yours alone.
If you want to write one sentence per line, knock yourself out.
As long as it’s not complete nonsense, you have the ability to create your own style that gets your message across to the reader.
Your reader will decide if they want to consume your content or not.
Your high school English teacher would absolutely love this tip 🙂
7) Honesty is the best policy
Readers can sense when a writer is being genuine. Unless it’s a fiction novel (which I am currently writing), write your truth and your readers will love you for it. People can smell a salesman from a mile away. Give it to your readers straight and you’ll have a better relationship. It’s okay to sell things, but keep it classy.
8) Last line has to kill
The last line should leave the reader satisfied or begging for more – it’s a delicate balance. Whether it’s a quote, question, or a statement that brings the story full circle, it has to resonate and leave an impression. In my post, Top 5 Ways a Side Business Can Supercharge Your Career, the reader was left with the following question, “What could new skills, increased creativity, more confidence, less stress, and financial peace do for your career?”
9) Take a break
Maybe this is more of a personality trait of mine, but I LOVE the freedom of writing whatever and whenever I want. This is one of the main reasons I have rejected offers to do freelance writing in my spare time. I can write a blog post every day or I can take a month off. It’s completely up to me.
When I finished writing my first book, Divorced Before 30, the feeling of accomplishment and pride was border-line addicting and I couldn’t wait to start the next one. That led to creating four books in approximately four months. It was all I did when I wasn’t at the office. Then a year passed before I published the fifth book. In the year between books, I focused on other things like this blog and living life.
It’s your life and you get to decide how you spend your time. If you want a strict writing schedule, great! Routine is helpful when it comes to getting words from your mind onto paper, but time off to travel, going to a movie, or Netflix and chill is okay too.
10) Go see a movie or pick up a paint brush
While you’re taking a break, go do something other than writing. Anything else! It can be going to see a movie, painting, hot yoga, whatever takes your mind off writing. Some of my best writing has happened after an extended mental break.
My favorite distraction is going to the movies. On that note, I recently saw Girls Trip, Atomic Blonde, and The House. All really good movies. I certify them 100% fresh.
11) Read a lot
Read everything you can get your hands on. Not just the genres you’re comfortable with. The more you read, the more writing styles you’ll encounter and can lean on in the future. Non-fiction, fiction, short stories, essays – read all of it. I used to only read non-fiction, but I’m beginning to branch out into fiction, poetry, and essays.
I write better after drinking coffee. Maybe I don’t, but I feel like I do. And if not, I feel happy after coffee. Win-win.
13) Write some more
The more you write, the better you’ll get. I guess this is the same as #2 above, but I needed one more tip. I like prime numbers.
At least now I know to shorten my stories when I’m trying to get a girl’s number.
Has it made a difference?
Still single, but making progress.
Related posts you may find interesting: