I came across this article by Gina Horkey on freelancefreedomfighter.com and thought she had some great tips about writing and where to start to become a better writer. This article resonated with me as I have always farmed out my copywriting to a professional copywriter. I have this fear of writing or rather fear of writing badly, but I realize now that writing is just like drawing it takes practice. Here is an excerpt from Gina’s article.
“As writers, we are crafting words that can turn into anything we want them to. However, there’s more to writing than just putting words to paper. If you’ve been writing for a while, then you know this.
There are various writing styles, and voices that can be carried through. You can choose one word to explain an emotion, or you can use many to delve deeper into that same emotion or thought.
It’s an art. Seriously, it is.
No matter how long you’ve been writing, I’m sure you’ve sat down at some point and thought about how your writing can improve.
Well, I have five simple actions you can do every day to help you expand your writing skills.
1) Read The New York Times Every Day
Most freelance writers read every day, but it’s time to take that a step further. Instead of just reading over the material, why not take 5 minutes out of your day and study a news article, like ones found in The New York Times, USA Today or even your favorite magazine.
Read them and see how the writer uses punctuation marks to change the speed of reading.
Did they use a semi-colon (;) where you would have placed a simple comma (,)?
But why do I say to read something like The Times instead of your favorite blog?
News publications, like the ones mentioned above, have been professionally edited, so the grammar is always on point. Studying the way they use punctuation marks will help you learn proper placement for your writing.
2) Learn A New Word Every Day
Expanding your vocabulary is a goal every writer should have. If you don’t have it, set it as your goal today. There are easy ways to learn new words.
You could get a word of the day calendar. (I love the one by the ever amazing Copywriter, Bob Bly.)
I had these as a kid, and I really like them (yes, I was a word nerd as a kid). Another option is the feature that comes with many computers where you can set the screensaver to display a new word every time it goes to sleep.
My personal method is the Word Of The Day app for iPhone. It sets an automatic reminder for me to check and see what the new word is.
Also, my old tried and true method is just to read.
I’m currently reading Inferno by Dan Brown, and I’m always learning new words from his books. (Love his work!)
3) Write Every Day
When you’re first starting out as a writer, getting information from your head and onto that blank screen can feel like a snail’s race. Not just because it can be hard to find the right words to type, but typing may be what’s slowing you down the most.
Either way, the best way to improve both of these is to write every day.
Write what, exactly?
Write a short story. Use Evernote and keep a daily journal. Seriously, write whatever you want — just write.
Soon, your fingers will fly across your keyboard as the word pour onto the page.
4) Buy a Workbook
It can be a bit humbling to admit that you may need to go back to basics with writing and English, but let’s face it — English is a hard language to get right. (Ain’t nobody perfect — just like this sentence.)
Because it’s mish-mash language with rules that don’t always apply.
For example, the word Pajamas was picked up by the British in while in India in the 1800’s. And the rule “I before E except after C” only applies to 44 words and the rule is broken by 923.
With that in mind, don’t feel bad if you realize you have to brush up on your grammar skills. There are some great workbooks on Amazon that can help give you that refresher.
The Only Grammar and Style Workbook You’ll Ever Need: A One-Stop Practice and Exercise Book for Perfect Writing
English Grammar Workbook For Dummies
5) Get a Second Opinion (a.k.a an Awesome Mentor)
Most of us can’t afford to go back to school for a few writing classes (and most of us really don’t want to). However, you can get an even better one-on-one education from a mentor at a fraction of the cost.
It’s difficult to critique your own work. Either you’re going to be too hard on yourself or not hard enough.
Getting a second opinion on your writing from someone who has been where you’re at is one of the best investments of your time and money that you can make.
There are plenty of people who you can ask. Here is a couple to consider:
Gina Horkey offers coaching along with her awesome email course for jump-starting your freelancing career.
Sophie Lizard with Be a Freelance Blogger offers a few options for mentoring.
Perhaps there is a writer or freelance blogger that you follow online. Even if they don’t openly offer mentoring, a well-crafted email to them could land you a sacred place under their tutelage.
Know a few people in the same boat as yourself who want to up their skills? Why not form a mastermind group and band together to help each other out and cheer each other on?
I was lucky enough to be asked to join an MMG and it’s been awesome.