Learn how to get it right first time.
How do you graduate from lack-lustre writer to instinctive, confident wordsmith? Here are a few tips.
A lot. The internet makes it all too tempting to immerse yourself in theory and put off the act itself. But there’s no replacement for practice, and you need plenty of it. To produce an engaging piece of writing you must invent and reinvent; in fact, you’ll need to redraft each piece of writing several times to get it right.
Take notes along the way. Too often writers edit a draft, confident they’ll remember what they tweaked to make it better, only to find themselves making exactly the same mistakes the next time. Write, rewrite and learn. Constantly.
Once in a while your first attempt will turn out rather well, but more often, when you re-read what you’ve written, you’ll be faced with the stark reality of your own imperfection. This is as it should be; first drafts have to suck so their successors won’t. Writing and rewriting is an indispensable part of understanding language, and you can’t get better until you can describe what went wrong.
3.Ignore the rules
Personalities, writing styles and genres vary, so rely on your instinct to know when something sounds good. As you gradually transform yourself into a confident writer, you’ll find that you write more quickly and become more creative in your content and style. Most importantly, developing an understanding of the relationship between language choices and good writing will make you more resourceful at the keyboard. If you want to sound approachable, you’ll know to address the reader directly and tell personal stories that illustrate your point. When you want to liven up a boring topic, you’ll know to vary the length of your sentences to keep your reader engaged. All this is a question of having confidence in your own instincts.
It’s this idea of developing an ear for good writing that lies behind my short course Writing with Confidence. Once you know some of the tools of the trade, you can adapt them almost infinitely according to what you are writing. The starting points I give you in this course will turn you into the kind of writer you think others are—the kind that can tap out a blog piece in half an hour and know it will inspire its readers. In short, an instinctive writer.
None of this is to say that you won’t at times still look at a blank page with apprehension. We all do. It’s just that now you will know how to turn an idea into a readable first draft that can be polished and rewritten to suit its audience. If the first draft sucks, at least you will know how to make it better. And that’s confidence.
Five steps to becoming an instinctive writer
- Read books. The more you analyse how others do it, the more tools you will have at your disposal.
- Create a checklist. As you learn about the linguistic choices you should make, note down your own style ‘rules’ so you can test yourself against them as you edit.
- Read out loud. Hearing your writing instead of just reading it will allow you to spot the things that sound awkward or trite.
- Rewrite several times at first. The more you work on a single draft, the more you’ll understand how to make it better.
- Get inspiration from language. Listen to how people talk and the phrases they use. Gather good expressions in your head (or in a notebook) and use them in your writing.
Writing with Confidence is a short, affordable writing course for business writers, bloggers and writers of non-fiction.
It is now available at the introductory price of £245 and includes:
- Detailed feedback and evaluation of up to 3 pieces of writing, with a bespoke recommendation for how you can become a more confident writer
- A 45-minute coaching call to discuss your evaluation
- The Writing with Confidence ebook, containing principles for good writing and tips and tricks to create perfect prose
- The Good Grammar Guide, an ebook with activities to brush up on any grammar you may have missed at school
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a place.