I work with many artists and entrepreneurs who are continually honing their unique voices. From my friends scribing their own screenplays to my clients crafting copy for their websites, I get a lot of requests for tips on writing and copy editing.
Drafting a novel requires a different approach from crafting an actor bio, but the basic balancing act of finding words that intrigue your reader, communicate your message and actually sound authentic to you, remains the same.
Here are five principles that I adhere to that can help improve your writing right away:
1. Get Clear about your Message
What are you really
trying to say? I repeat this question to myself and to clients about ten times every day with the goal of trying to narrow in on a very specific intention. Before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, create a list in your mind of the new information your reader should have after each section or paragraph. Many people just start writing and see what comes out as they go which can be helpful for curing writer’s block but often leads to aimless sentences and nebulous messaging. When I have difficulty identifying the core thought I want to communicate, I ask myself, “What are you really trying to say?” three times. After three considerations, I’m usually able to cut through to my core intention which helps me find poignancy and focus.
2. Keep it Simple
Good writing doesn’t require complicated words and long sentences. If you can convey your message with fewer words, you should. There’s nothing wrong with layered and nuanced writing as long as it’s not redundant or pointlessly overcomplicated. You may love the way a long and winding sentence sounds but your reader may not appreciate you choosing the most roundabout way to get to your point. Unless it’s a very distinct style choice, I usually advise simplifying word choice and sentence structure as much as possible
3. Build a Lexicon
Whatever you’re writing, it needs to sound like you. While I love a good thesaurus your writing needs to reflect your unique voice. Something I help my clients do is build a lexicon of words that fit in with their everyday vocabulary. Phrases and words come in and out of vogue and seem to appear in every other Elite Daily article. Don’t feel pressured to use a term in your writing that you wouldn’t use in normal conversation simply because you think your audience would like it. If you’re diving into a new writing project, make list of keywords related to your subject that sound true to you.
4. Edit, Edit, Edit
Many people spend 80 % of their total writing time producing a first draft and 20% on the editing process. Efficient and effective writers flip that process around. When I sit down to write I usually draw out my list of new information and create a quick and loose rough draft around that. Once the skeleton of your message is in place, it’s easier to cohesively mold and shape your piece through multiple rounds of edits. If you tend to focus a lot on getting your piece right during the first draft, try out a multiple edit structure instead. You may be surprised at how much time it cuts out of your total writing process.
5. Review Final Drafts with Fresh Eyes
I find it’s always helpful to take a little time away from a piece before you do your final round of edits. It’s amazing how much an overnight break can help you spot glaring problems you wouldn’t have noticed before. Try to leave at least a day between what you think is your finished draft and your publishing due date so you can enjoy the luxury of a fresh look before it goes off to the presses.
If you need a little extra help in the realm of writing, self-scripting or editing you can visit my personal coaching and content editing site here.