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The Best Writing Advice You’ll Ever Get

Or not. Who knows?

Originally published in Word Garden on Medium.

There’s enough writing advice out there, right?

At every turn, someone is out there saying “said is dead” or trying to limit my usage of (un)necessary commas (the audacity). However, many authors with more authority and experience have written the same topic or subject matter I want to. But I have not.

Am I the first person to write about my experience as a late-identified Autistic woman? Heck no. But my experience of being Autistic is unique to me and thus, I will write it.

All this to say, you better prepare to read my two cents of writing advice, especially if you’re just starting.

What Gives Me the Right To Offer Advice?

I’ve been writing since I was a teenager. My passion for writing grew in my senior year creative writing class. And after I graduated? It blossomed tenfold.

I took a gap year (which turned into three years, but that’s a story for another time). And when I say I wrote hundreds of thousands of words. I wrote hundreds of thousands of words.

I blogged. I wrote not one, but two 90k first drafts. I wrote over 200 poems. I journaled. Whenever I had the chance my laptop sat open or my journal lay open to a blank page and I was writing.

And if I wasn’t writing? I was reading.

This brings me to my first piece of advice.

Read. Read. Read.

Aside from actually writing, the best way to learn how to write: is to read. But you can’t just read anything, you have to be decisive about it (sort of).

My top advice is to read everything you can get your hands on. Read within your genre. Read outside of your genre. Try out different mediums. Read fantasy. Read mystery. Read poems, novellas, and short stories. Read essays. Read marketing advertisements, press releases, and websites.

Then take a few favourite pieces and head to the next step.

Analyze Others’ Work

Analyze and dissect others’ work. What do I mean by this?

I mean:

  • Go through word by word.

  • Then sentence by sentence.

  • Examine how each word and sentence work together to form a cohesive paragraph and story.

For example, my favourite book is Heist Society by Ally Carter. I first read this book and the rest of the trilogy in 7th and 8th grade. So, yes, it is a kid/teen series. But I copied the first few pages, printed it, and grabbed my highlighters.

I figured out how Carter wove character details into each scene. As well as how a character’s voice came through in the dialogue. I learned so much about creative writing from only two pages. And those lessons have stuck with me since then.

This also works with non-fiction books and articles.

Look at how a writer structures an essay or article. How does the writer start the essay? How do they end it?

How do they weave in storytelling techniques with cited sources of facts and data? How would you describe the writer’s voice and what does their word choice say about them and the subject matter?

The key here is to keep asking questions and finding the answers. Even if it’s just a word you don’t know, take the time to look it up. Stay curious.

My last piece of advice might seem…silly or obvious, but it comes from a good place.

Nail Down Your Grammar and Punctuation

I found The 11 Rules of Grammar: Understand the Basics. It covers the basics in an easily digestible way.

Even if you have the words, the impact of your writing will suffer if the proper grammar isn’t present.

Grammar and punctuation are the foundation on which you build your writing. So, ensure you know it inside and out when you get to that editing stage.

Find Community And Get Feedback

Have others read your writing and critique it. Little is as beneficial as peer-reviewed feedback.

Of course, you must be careful and wary of the criticisms that are just plain negative and unhelpful. The goal is to remain open and receptive to constructive criticism. Then others will be supportive and provide helpful feedback.

Helpful Resources

The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth is the best book that improved my writing.

Hoopla and Kanopy are free borrowing/lending apps available with a library card. They allow you to borrow movies, shows, books, and more. There are also educational and how-to series on writing essays, fiction, and the like.

I’m currently watching Becoming a Great Essayist (which costs hundreds of dollars if you click the link, but I’m watching it on Kanopy for free).

The Hemmingway Editor is a free site that provides an analysis of:

  • Readability and grade level

  • Hard-to-read and very-hard-to-read sentences

  • Adverb and weak language use

  • Words with simpler alternatives

  • Use of passive voice

The great thing is you don’t have to accept every suggestion. Though, it has helped me cut back on my run-on sentences. I tend to ramble if you haven’t noticed.

Notable Mentions

Final Thoughts

Alright, I’m about to contradict myself, are you ready?

Ok. Take every piece of advice I’ve just offered with a grain of salt.

Will my advice, and others, help? Probably, but when you start writing throw the so-called rules out the window. I mean it.

Writing is a form of self-discovery. If you get caught up in the “rules” it’ll be much harder to find your unique voice, what topics you like to write about, and so on.

So, get out there and start writing! Or rather find a quiet place to sit comfortably with a pen and paper or your laptop.

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