Writing can be an amazing world to explore! From realistic fiction to mysteries to sci-fi to poetry, your writing is only limited by your imagination. Keep in mind that writing is a lot more than putting pen to paper: it takes reading, research, thinking, and revision. While not all writing methods work for everyone, these tips should get you started on your path to writing.


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Getting Started

  1. Read a lot. Read a variety of authors and genres to expand your understanding of what different writing looks like and what each author's "voice" sounds. This will help you think about and develop what you want to write about, how you want your writing to sound, and, even as important, how you don't want to sound.
    • Read what you want to write. If you want to write a sci-fi novel, for instance, start reading the masters of the genre like Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury.
    • Keep up a regular reading schedule. Even if it's only 20 minutes a day before you go to sleep, you'll notice an improvement in your writing.
  2. Find a place to write. As you start writing, try writing in different places to find what works best for you. Where can you concentrate best? Where do you find inspiration? Where can you focus? It could be at your desk at home, at a busy coffee shop, in a secluded corner of a library, in a park or anywhere you feel like.
    • You might find that different places work for you based on your mood or what writing step you're in.
    • Different locations might lend themselves to different activities. For instance, you might brainstorm best on your bed at home and edit best at a library.
  3. Choose a way to write. Will you write everything down by hand or use a laptop? As with finding a place to write, finding your way to write will develop over time.
    • Be wary of distractions. While typing may be quicker, it can also lead to distractions such as checking your email or websites.
  4. Brainstorm. Write down plot ideas. There's always an idea before a well-written book, and the possibilities are endless. You could write about calculus. You could write about Mercury. You could even write about yourself. There is nothing you can't write about. Try answering these questions:
    • What happens in your story?
    • What's the main topic?
    • Who's the main character?
    • Why should the reader be interested?
  5. Research. If you're writing about a subject you're not an expert on and want to make sure you are presenting the topic or information realistically, look up the information or seek out an expert to ask questions.
    • Search for information online. Type your topic into a search engine and sift through the top 10 or 20 results.
      • Note: Be cautious about information you retrieve online, especially if you are writing a research paper or an article that relies on factual information. Internet sources can be unreliable. Published books, or works found in a journal, have to undergo a much more thorough vetting process before they reach publication, and are therefore safer to use as sources.
    • Check out a library. Yes, believe it or not, there is still information to be found in a library that hasn't made its way to the Web. For an even greater breadth of resources, try a college or university library.

Writing Drafts

  1. Write a rough draft. It doesn't matter how many spelling errors or weak adjectives you have in it. This copy is just jotting down those random uncategorized thoughts. Write down anything you think of that you want included in your writing, and worry about organizing everything where it belongs later.
  2. If you're having trouble, try freewriting. Set a timer and write continuously until that time is up. You won't have time to worry about errors and mistakes if you're rushing to get the words out. It doesn't matter if you never use it, just beat the writer's block by filling the blank page and get your writer's muscles writing.
  3. Edit for your second draft.. Review the rough draft and begin to put what you've written in the order you'll want it in. Clean up misspellings, grammatical errors and weak writing such as repetitive words. Flesh out the plot and start thinking of anything you want to cut out.
    • Edit ruthlessly. If it doesn't fit in with the overall story, if it's unnecessary, or if you don't like what you've written, cut it out.
    • Check for coherency. Do all parts of the story make sense together? If so, continue. If not, consider revising whatever doesn't fit in.
    • Check for necessity. Do all parts of the story contribute? Does each section give necessary background, advance the plot, build suspense, or develop an important character?
    • Check for anything missing. Are all your characters properly introduced? Do the plot points flow smoothly into one another, or are there some logical gaps?
  4. Proofread. Remember that spell check alone doesn't always do the job. Only you can catch the difference between to, too, and two, or Use-There,-Their-and-They're. Although they may be spelled correctly, they may not be used in the correct context.
  5. Write a third draft. For this draft, take more time thinking about each section as you analyze, edit or re-write it. Think about bigger changes like moving sections of the story around.
  6. Keep rewriting until you're ready for a second opinion. This is an important step, as other people will see what you actually wrote, and not just what you think you wrote.
    • Get feedback from someone whose opinion you respect and trust, and who either reads a lot or writes themselves.
    • Ask them to be honest and thorough. Only honest feedback, even if it's a wholesale criticism of your entire story, can make you a better writer.
    • If they need some guidance, give them the same questions you've been asking yourself.
    • This is particularly critical if any aspect of your story revolves around a technical area in which you're not an expert. Make sure at least one of your readers is an expert in that area.
    • Join a writer's group in your area or online to share your writing, read others' writing, and provide mutual feedback.
  7. Evaluate the response you received. You don't have to like or agree with everything that's said to you about your work. On the other hand, if you get the same comment from more than one person, you should probably take it very seriously. Strike a balance between keeping aspects that you want and making changes based on input you trust.
    • Re-read the story with your readers' comments in the back of your head. Note any gaps, places that need to be cut, or areas needing revision.
    • Re-write using the insights gained from your readers and from your own subsequent critical reading.

General Strategies for Effective Writing

  1. Omit needless words. Cut out words that serve only as window dressing. If a word isn't essential to the telling of the story, or the semantics of the sentence, omit it. It's better to have too few words than too many. Too many words and your writing becomes stuffy, pompous, or unreadable. Be especially careful of:
    • Adjectives. Adjectives describe nouns, but sometimes the description is redundant. Beginning writers often make the mistake of peppering their writing with far too many adjectives in an attempt to "be descriptive."
      • Take the sentence: "He stepped aside, an indignant wrath boiling up inside his loins." "Indignant" means angry, but so does "wrath." Here, the adjective is just getting in the way without offering anything new. Far better would have been: "He stepped aside, wrath boiling up inside his loins."
    • Idioms and slang. Idioms, such as "a piece of cake" or "foam at the mouth," don't always translate into enjoyable writing. Like slang, they date the piece (who says "suck the milk of nations" anymore?) and can be misinterpreted (can you decipher slang from the 1920s?).
  2. Keep you vocabulary simple. In the beginning, practice writing like Hemingway instead of Faulkner. If you're not familiar with either' work, here's a comparison. Which one do you find easier to understand?
    • "Maera lay still, his head on his arms, his face in the sand. He felt warm and sticky from the bleeding. Each time he felt the horn coming. Sometimes the bull only bumped him with his head. Once the horn went all the way through him and he felt it go into the sand. Some one had the bull by the tail. They were swearing at him and flopping the cape in his face. Then the bull was gone." — Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time.
    • "It was of the men, not white nor black nor red but men, hunters, with the will and hardihood to endure and the humility and skill to survive, and the dogs and the bear and deer juxtaposed and relieved against it, ordered and compelled by and within the wilderness in the ancient and unremitting contest according to the ancient and unmitigable rules which voided all regrets and brooked no quarter;" — William Faulkner, The Bear.
  3. Let verbs be the vehicle of your sentence. Verbs are perhaps your best friends. A well-placed verb will make a sentence dazzle and keep it free from other kinds of words, such as adjectives or nouns, that can clutter it up. Ezra Pound once said that, at its most basic, a sentence is a transfer of power.[1] Verbs help make that transfer possible.
    • Take the following sentence: "He went into the room." There's nothing wrong with this sentence. On the other hand, it's a little bland. You can spice the sentence up, and be more specific, by introducing a subtler verb instead of "went." How about "crept," or "barreled," or "slid" instead?
    • Use the active voice instead of the passive voice, as a rule of thumb.
      • Active voice: "The dog found his master." Here, the dog is doing the work, so to speak. He is actively finding his master.
      • Passive voice: "The master is found by his dog." Here, the dog is more removed from the action. The master is being found; the dog isn't finding.
  4. Expand your vocabulary. Expanding your vocabulary will give you the option of being more precise with your words. You shouldn't use a "big" or "fancy" word when there is a more commonplace word that means the same thing, but you may be forced to use a big word every once in a while. Those big words are like a rainy-day fund: use them sparingly and only in a pinch.
    • How many people do you think know the definition of "sesquipedalian?" Not very many, probably. (It means "long" or "long-winded.") If you're going to use it, use it in the right context. It probably won't fit next to more ordinary words, but it may work if you're using "sesquipedalian" to be ironic, satirical, or funny.
    • Get in the habit of memorizing technical words. If you want to describe a house, you're probably going to need to know some architecture terms: "eaves," "columns," "façade," "trim," "jamb," and the list goes on. Because these are technical terms, there aren't really any synonyms for them. You're stuck with either calling it "gold trim" or "gold stuff on the side of the wall." You decide which sounds better.
  5. Use figurative language for effect. Figurative language include metaphors and similes, which you've probably already heard of. Use figurative language sparingly, but for effect. "The cleats were hard and misshapen" might be made more vivid by introducing a simile: "The cleats were hard and misshapen, like some shell spit forth by the sea."
  6. Pay attention to punctuation. You probably think punctuation is boring, and you may be right. The thing is, it's supposed to be boring. Punctuation helps us understand what words arranged in a certain way mean, and virtually nothing beyond that. It should be there, but not noticeable. People make the mistake of trying to get punctuation do too much, be flashy, or call attention to it, whether purposely or not.
    • Exclamation points. Use exclamation points sparingly. People don't often exclaim things; nor do sentences often merit exclamation. Elmore Leonard, the great crime writer, has this to say: "Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose."
    • Semicolons. Semicolons act as hybrid periods, connecting two sentences that have logical connection. Still, Kurt Vonnegut argues against them: "Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college."[2] Although Vonnegut's assessment might be a little harsh, it's probably only good to use them from time to time.
  7. Avoid archaic writing. Archaic writing means you use writing conventions that people writing 300 years ago preferred. Archaic writing is hard to understand, sounds less natural to the modern ear, and — believe it or not — is harder to write.
    • Archaic: "The reasons are fourfold."
      • Modern: "There are four reasons."
  8. Say what you mean, don't mean what you say. Think of what you want to say before you say it. Try to get to the point where your words consciously reflect thoughts. A lot of people simply put words onto paper and hope that they're somehow in the same ballpark as what they originally meant. This is just plain lazy writing.


  • Have fun, especially if you love to write.
  • Remember, it's supposed to be fun, so don't get stressed. Famous authors generally re-write their stories over and over many times.
  • Don't be afraid to write things that happen in your story out of order. A lot of writers write the ending first and then go back. If you do this a lot, write each section as you think of it, but on separate pages (or, if you're writing on a computer, different text documents or in different sections of one big text document). Then arrange and re-arrange the pages in the order of when you want the things to happen in the story.
  • You can make a to-do list to help you keep track of what steps you want to accomplish.
  • Be sure to copy, edit, and proofread written work, but not while you are brainstorming.
  • After writing your first draft, spend a bit of time away from your story. It will let you reread it in the mind of a reader, and you may find some very obvious mistakes that you didn't notice while writing.
  • Really get to know your characters. If your alone, draw a basic sketch of them and chat to them as if they are real people. This will develop them and make them seem more realistic and believable when put into your story.
  • You're not going to write a bestseller on one try. You need to be ready to take some serious feedback and edit like a mad man. Don't be afraid to admit that your story isn't perfect, but make sure you're still having fun at the same time.
  • Don't feel rushed. Writing is a strong process, and it does take time. Don't feel the need to rush your writing. Write as if it was a hobby, not a chore.

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