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How to become a better writer?

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absybad

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I want to learn how to become a better writer. In fact, I think it will be one of the most useful skills for me. I don't know how to make to make my sentences sound better. I would love to hear from MJ. Do you just read, read and read and you become better writer? My sentences sound like crap and I want to know how to get started. Thanks.

See? My sentences really sound like crap.
 

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BizyDad

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I think it is normal for writers to be their own worst critics. So at least you have that box checked.

It is not just read read read. It is more important to write write write. Develop the habit. Congrats, you already started!

I don't think your sentences sound like crap. You concisely and effectively communicated a thought, a concern, a desire, some self disgust and a request. I hope he responds.

Oh, and I recently discovered a bunch of youtube channels on writing, so that might also be a helpful resource for you. Good luck to you.
 

Stargazer

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When you were at school I would hazard a guess that you did not read Titus Andronicus, Henry VI Part 1 or Love's Labour's Lost but more than likely read Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Richard III, Hamlet, Henry V , 12th Night or The Merchant of Venice.

Want to know why?

Shakespeare's early plays were dull to the point that there is not one single memorable line from any of them combined, whereas the latter ones are stuffed full of quotable lines and excitement.

In other words he got better and better as time went on.

Just like you can. :)

As @BizyDad writes above, you need to write , write, write to become a better writer.

Compliment that with reading and studying a variety works. You can probably find how to write courses online for not much these days. Stephen King wrote a book which is quite famous on how to write.

Dan
 

Johnny boy

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1. Know something great or do something great

2. Stuff the greatest truth into the fewest words

3. Put your soul into it by writing what you really think and not what you think others want to read.

Bonus tip: Make it more readable with good punctuation, spelling, and spaces in between ideas.
 

afrankmore

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I want to learn how to become a better writer. In fact, I think it will be one of the most useful skills for me. I don't know how to make to make my sentences sound better. I would love to hear from MJ. Do you just read, read and read and you become better writer? My sentences sound like crap and I want to know how to get started. Thanks.

See? My sentences really sound like crap.
There is a fastlaner on here that specializes in this exact problem. I cannot find our thread that we talked on the topic but when I do I will extend the user handle.
 

MJ DeMarco

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Writing is an art of flow, rhythm, and imagination.

To write better...

  1. Write daily. (I write daily here, though it is more extemporaneous)
  2. Read a lot, specifically authors who are good writers. In fiction, if any author has sold gazillions, usually their work is good. Non-fiction is another story... a best-selling book does not equate to good authorship. If an author has a huge following, a publishing house will sign them, regardless if their writing sucks. The publisher is not signing a good author, they are signing a guaranteed income stream -- their editors fix the rest.
  3. Study the practice. I've read dozens of books on writing.
  4. Be evocative, cut flab, craft imagination in your read using a variety of literary devices, metaphor, analogies, etc. (my challenge is flab, I can be repetitive).
  5. Avoid mainstream fad writing (Fifty Shades of Gray) as usually those works are the result of intense marketing or viral anomalies.

I wrote this some years ago...

 

Kid

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One of the best selling author in the world had a knack of writing on whatever she could put her hands on. Including tissues at the bar. So when they say "write write write", they mean "write write write".
 

mon_fi

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This is a good question I have asked myself some weeks ago.

1. Cut adverbs,
2. Avoid using the passive form.
3. Write short and concise sentences.
4. Write to the point.
5. Use verbs that specifically express what you say.
6. Express a maximum of content with a minimum number of words.
7. Have a message.

I advise you to have a look at Medium. There are many articles about writing and many writers that consistently get their articles going viral. Tim Denning comes to mind. The guy is good because he can put himself into the head of his readers. He writes exactly what they want to know about. His writing is simple, clear, concise, to the point. It's almost addictive. I would advise you to study the writing of such people.

Furthermore, one way you can become good at writing is to write something, then leave it to rest for 1 or 2 days and come back to it later. Read it. Improve it. Then forget about it for 2 or 3 days and come back to it.

Repeat this cycle until your text has become so good you can't see how to improve it anymore

Jordan Peterson took 15 years to write "maps of meaning". He wrote the book once, than changed each sentence 4 or 5 times until he didn't see the added-value of changing them.

No need to take 15 years, but this principle is sound to improve your writing.

Good writing is not long and complicated with a lot of different fancy words. I am reading "Civilized to death now" and while this book is interesting, the author is making so many metaphors and cultural references that are out of context with his core message that it is painful to read.

Good writing is simple. To the point. People don't like to think, so don't ask them to.

Finally, have a look at Cashvertising. You may not want to become a copywriter, but the book is specifically about writing things that people will read. Might be helpful.


Study the practice. I've read dozens of books on writing.

Any recommendations?
 

Primeperiwinkle

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Read a bit of these and write every day.

For grammar:
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire
Eat, Shoots, and Leaves
Strunk and White Elements of Style

To know who you are as a writer:
Dorothea Brande’s Becoming A Writer
Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose
On Writing by Stephen King
Creating Character Arcs by KM Weiland
Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guin

Good luck.
 

Jon L

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Here's my favorite example of great writing. Charles Krauthammer wrote his final column just before he died. In it, he summed up his entire life in one short paragraph:

I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.

Talk about communicating a lot, with a little.

 

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sfarieri

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I want to learn how to become a better writer. In fact, I think it will be one of the most useful skills for me. I don't know how to make to make my sentences sound better. I would love to hear from MJ. Do you just read, read and read and you become better writer? My sentences sound like crap and I want to know how to get started. Thanks.

See? My sentences really sound like crap.
Your sentences don't sound bad at all. I'm no expert, but I think reading can help so you see the different writing styles people use. There's probably some online courses you can take too. Write something every day and make it a habit.
 

mon_fi

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I have just watched a min-blowing hour of a course on (academic) writing given by a uni prof from the University of Chicago.

It is really awesome, golden principles that applies to everything, including entrepreneurship.

Here is the YT vid, but I have taken notes, which you can find below. They are pretty raw, so I absolutely recommend watching the video.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtIzMaLkCaM




Notes start here


A journalist writes to explain something after he has done the thinking. An expert writes to think about what he is writing. Writing appears as a thinking process. This type of writing is the highest writing level ever.

People write and think differently. When a writer writes something, it will collapse with the thinking process of his readers, because both are different.

Good writing is writing that fits thinking processes.

When people read something that wasn’t made to fit with their thinking patterns, they slow down, then don’t understand then get angry, then stop reading.

Writing must be: Clear, organized, persuasive, but above all else, writing should be valuable.

Your writing should change people’s lives. If it doesn’t they wont read it. When people read something, it is to find value in it. If there is none, they won’t read it.

As such, writing is not about the writer wondering if his ideas have values. Writing is about what the readers think is valuable.

The main thing you must focus on when writing something, is the readers. Is it valuable to readers?


Now, let’s say you write a paper and someone tells you what you wrote is neither clear nor important. What would you?

You would explain why it is important.

Don’t do that.

Teachers ask students to explain because it is teachers’ job to make sure that students have understood the knowledge. As such, students are trained to show teachers the inside of their mind so that teachers can make sure that students indeed, understood. In the real word, nobody cares about what is inside your head.

As such, you NEVER WANT TO EXPLAIN SOMEONE WHY YOUR WORK IS IMPORTANT. IT GOTTA BE OBVIOUS WHY IT IS IMPORTANT.

You think writing is conveying your ideas? It’s not.

It’s changing the ideas of your reader.

Nobody cares what ideas you have.


What matters is that you write knowledge, and you don’t get to decide what knowledge is. Other people do. So the purpose of writing, is to write for other people.

Each community has a code made of a set of word that communicate value. You must know these words if you hope to write valuable information for this community.

If you don’t know your readers, you are very unlikely to create value and to be persuasive. Persuasion depends on what they doubt. If you don’t know that, you can’t convince them.

You can’t go to a community of scientists and tell them “hey, there is something I’d like to add to what you have done” because they’ll answer “we don’t care”. However, if you go and say “what you have done is amazing, I have read everything congratulations, all is great. But, there is one thing though, that I am not sure is correct”…then you’ll have their attention. Because suddenly, what you are saying has value to them.

The idea of writing, is to identify the people with power in the community, and to give them what they want.

Your writing should help a group of people to understand better something they want to understand well.
 

Bekit

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I have just watched a min-blowing hour of a course on (academic) writing given by a uni prof from the University of Chicago.

It is really awesome, golden principles that applies to everything, including entrepreneurship.

Here is the YT vid, but I have taken notes, which you can find below. They are pretty raw, so I absolutely recommend watching the video.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtIzMaLkCaM




Notes start here


A journalist writes to explain something after he has done the thinking. An expert writes to think about what he is writing. Writing appears as a thinking process. This type of writing is the highest writing level ever.

People write and think differently. When a writer writes something, it will collapse with the thinking process of his readers, because both are different.

Good writing is writing that fits thinking processes.

When people read something that wasn’t made to fit with their thinking patterns, they slow down, then don’t understand then get angry, then stop reading.

Writing must be: Clear, organized, persuasive, but above all else, writing should be valuable.

Your writing should change people’s lives. If it doesn’t they wont read it. When people read something, it is to find value in it. If there is none, they won’t read it.

As such, writing is not about the writer wondering if his ideas have values. Writing is about what the readers think is valuable.

The main thing you must focus on when writing something, is the readers. Is it valuable to readers?


Now, let’s say you write a paper and someone tells you what you wrote is neither clear nor important. What would you?

You would explain why it is important.

Don’t do that.

Teachers ask students to explain because it is teachers’ job to make sure that students have understood the knowledge. As such, students are trained to show teachers the inside of their mind so that teachers can make sure that students indeed, understood. In the real word, nobody cares about what is inside your head.

As such, you NEVER WANT TO EXPLAIN SOMEONE WHY YOUR WORK IS IMPORTANT. IT GOTTA BE OBVIOUS WHY IT IS IMPORTANT.

You think writing is conveying your ideas? It’s not.

It’s changing the ideas of your reader.

Nobody cares what ideas you have.


What matters is that you write knowledge, and you don’t get to decide what knowledge is. Other people do. So the purpose of writing, is to write for other people.

Each community has a code made of a set of word that communicate value. You must know these words if you hope to write valuable information for this community.

If you don’t know your readers, you are very unlikely to create value and to be persuasive. Persuasion depends on what they doubt. If you don’t know that, you can’t convince them.

You can’t go to a community of scientists and tell them “hey, there is something I’d like to add to what you have done” because they’ll answer “we don’t care”. However, if you go and say “what you have done is amazing, I have read everything congratulations, all is great. But, there is one thing though, that I am not sure is correct”…then you’ll have their attention. Because suddenly, what you are saying has value to them.

The idea of writing, is to identify the people with power in the community, and to give them what they want.

Your writing should help a group of people to understand better something they want to understand well.
This was a fantastic share. Thank you, @mon_fi ! Excellent stuff. (When you have a 1.5 hour video of a college class that has racked up almost 2 million views, you know that's got to be a pretty impressive class.)

It's interesting how many of the principles he explores also apply to copywriting, even though he's coming from the angle of "writing an academic paper that will get published."

It's universal. Provide value. Think about what the reader wants to read.

I liked his point about how if you're just stacking up knowledge, knowledge, and more knowledge, no one cares. Instead, it's more accurate to realize there's a conversation taking place in a community, which is moving forward through time. And at any given time, there are things that the community cares about, and other things they don't. So give them the things they care about.

I also couldn't help but notice that he pointed out that you have to begin with a PROBLEM (tension / instability) and then point out the cost of not solving the problem or the reward if you do solve it.

Heh heh... everything is a sale, guys.

Even if you're a PhD in academia writing papers on obscure topics for academic journals, you still have to sell the journal editor on publishing you.

And what do you know? The same starting point that works for EVERY sale (problem/pain) also applies here. Gotta love it.
 

mon_fi

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This was a fantastic share. Thank you, @mon_fi ! Excellent stuff. (When you have a 1.5 hour video of a college class that has racked up almost 2 million views, you know that's got to be a pretty impressive class.)

It's interesting how many of the principles he explores also apply to copywriting, even though he's coming from the angle of "writing an academic paper that will get published."

It's universal. Provide value. Think about what the reader wants to read.

I liked his point about how if you're just stacking up knowledge, knowledge, and more knowledge, no one cares. Instead, it's more accurate to realize there's a conversation taking place in a community, which is moving forward through time. And at any given time, there are things that the community cares about, and other things they don't. So give them the things they care about.

I also couldn't help but notice that he pointed out that you have to begin with a PROBLEM (tension / instability) and then point out the cost of not solving the problem or the reward if you do solve it.

Heh heh... everything is a sale, guys.

Even if you're a PhD in academia writing papers on obscure topics for academic journals, you still have to sell the journal editor on publishing you.

And what do you know? The same starting point that works for EVERY sale (problem/pain) also applies here. Gotta love it.

Exactly!

At the beginning, I was thinking that this thought process really applied to the fastlane. Then I realized it applies to EVERYTHING.

Don't tell people what you want to say - tell them what they want to hear.
Don't write what you want to communicate - write what they want to read.
Don't dO wHaT yOu LoVe - do what THEY love.
Don't look how you want to look - look like what they enjoy looking at.
Don't sell what you make - sell what they buy.

We are not successful because of what we do. We are successful if people deem us to be successful, which is why we must focus on others and not on ourselves to achieve success.

It is a paradox.

Success is selfishly motivated, but acquired once we forget about our own motives and focus on others.
 

Primeperiwinkle

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I got thirty minutes left of this video to watch but I’m already desperate to have a deep convo about it. I want a convo. I need a convo. If you have a convo maybe you will uncover areas where you’re in error OR you’ll be able to practice the points he is making. A convo with me will benefit you because you’ll be able to practice arguing. I have random thoughts.

Why should I agree with this guy’s premises? I don’t want the answer that it will make me a better salesperson... I want to know why following this guy’s advice will make me a better person.

I ALWAYS WRITE TO THINK. It is infinitely encouraging to discover I am not alone in that. THANK GOD I didn’t go to a formal college.

This guy’s model of knowledge is appropriate fir a post modern society, which is sad. It’s relativistic. Knowledge isn’t truth per se.. and he doesn’t discuss truth but they are similar in my mind. Truth isn’t decided upon by a community... truth is absolute. The community just discovers the absolute over and over and over again. Hm.

“What do they doubt?” Is discovering this the key to winning every argument?!?!? I don’t know if I’m disgusted by this or intrigued or if it’s really really helpful like learning anatomy before you have to clean out gangrene... ugh.

What is the function of writing?!?!? This dude says it’s to move the convo forward and not to preserve knowledge indefinitely but I’ve seen convos on here and other places go on indefinitely and still never get to any truth.. isn’t the function of writing to discover and share truth or caring?

What he’s saying about community is fascinating. Every community DEFINITELY has its own vocabulary.. and learning that is the first step to connecting within that community.
 

Andy Black

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An expert writes to think about what he is writing. Writing appears as a thinking process.
That’s interesting. I write to figure stuff out. I start in one place and mostly don’t know what my next sentence will be, never mind the conclusion.
 

afrankmore

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I want to learn how to become a better writer. In fact, I think it will be one of the most useful skills for me. I don't know how to make to make my sentences sound better. I would love to hear from MJ. Do you just read, read and read and you become better writer? My sentences sound like crap and I want to know how to get started. Thanks.

See? My sentences really sound like crap.
I write as though I am talking to my son. Its easier for me due to the content of my product. Once I complete the first writing, then I will go back and touch up some areas, work on the grammar, punctuation, but my final product will be edited and reviewed professionally. But starting out.. I just write as though I am writing to someone close to me.
 

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