I wrote my first short story when I was about six years old and before that, not being able to properly write yet, I would think of many stories in my head, most of which were about horses and other animals I loved. Writing has always had an extremely relaxing and therapeutic effect on me and my definition of fun was writing essays for classes. And with the encouragement of various teachers my style of writing, as well as my vocabulary, have improved over the years, and though I know that I’m far from being an expert in writing, I thought I’d share with you today a few steps that I’ve established back in High-School. It’s just a strategy that I’ve been following for years and maybe you could make use of those tips as well. So, let’s get started.
Write down every single thought that pops into your mind concerning the topic you are writing about. Don’t focus on structure, grammar, and choice of words. This first step is only for gathering your thoughts and opinions on the topic of your text.
Nowadays information is accessible at any given time. Google your topic, maybe read some book about it, whatever fits best for you. This step is for getting comfortable and familiar with the topic.
There are some differences between Article, Essay, Open Letters, Colum, etc. Especially when it comes to structure and the opinion. Luckily, there usually are tons of examples for each type of text online, so all you have to do is read a few examples and keep in mind, what’s important for your text.
Now, that seems to me a bit of an underestimated step. But it’s actually your target-group that tells you whatever your text should be modern, sophisticated, humorous, … No matter what you are writing about, you want to draw your reader in right from the start. So, a catching headline and subhead are crucial. But the overall style has a great impact on how people are going to receive your text. Let me give you a quick example: Let’s say you are to write an essay concerning drug-abuse for 13- to 16-year-old teenagers. Your style of writing should be easy going and relatable, you may even want to throw the occasional joke in there, but keep your topic in mind, it should still be clear that the subject of your text is of serious nature. Now, you have to write an essay on the same topic of the parents of those teenagers. In that case, your style should be more sophisticated and business-like. You want your reader to see how competent and trustworthy you are.
You got to build a relationship with your reader. If you have trouble doing that, draw an imaginary reader. Write down their hobbies, their living situation, what they love, what they hate and then write the text for that person.
Put your thoughts from Step 1 in order. Keep in mind Step 3.
I’ve always like to compare writing with baking. First, you mix all the ingredients together until you have a batter. Then you let it rest for a while before you form it and put it in the oven.
Writing is rather similar and in my opinion letting your draft rest is absolutely necessary in order to become an excellent text since it allows you to step back from the topic for a while and most of the time gives you a whole new perspective on the subject. Also, you are more likely to discover typos when you return to your draft.
How long you want your draft to rest is up to you. I like to lay mine down overnight, but when I’m in a hurry I try to get at least an hour in before editing it and putting together the final edition. There are also topics that challenge me more than others, then I sometimes let a text rest for over a week, if there’s enough time. Which brings me straight to the next point.
When you are at school or university you are usually told when you have to hand in a piece of work and believe me when I say that not starting to write a day before the due date will improve your writing immensely. Simply because you can do a way better and thought-through structure, research more and, of course, let it rest. Naturally, that won’t be possible to do every time you have to write something, but the next time your professor tells you to hand in that essay Monday next week, start right on the day they tell you about it. Not only will you be more relaxed because you are on time with your homework, you will also find that you will receive a better mark on that particular text.
Writing needs practice just as everything in life. If you are trying too hard to be perfect and put a lot of pressure on yourself, you are very likely to “over-edit” your text and end up with a decent result, but that’s usually not what you really have in store. The perfect text doesn’t exist, you’ll always find something to change, to edit so it’s important to just let go sometimes. And, as long as you keep on writing you are going to get better anyway. Try to be confident about what you have to say. Your thoughts and opinion matter.
Honestly, there’s hardly anything more upsetting than reading a text that uses the same word over and over again. Obviously, there are certain exceptions, but most vocabs have at least one synonym that you could write instead. Really focus on that the next time you write something. Your text will freshen up a damn lot if you try to use different words.
Also, there’s an awesome app for searching synonyms available for iOS and Android. It’s called “Thesaurus” and basically provides you with synonyms for English vocabulary.
There’s nothing I could tell you that improves your writing as much as reading. I haven’t really got anything to say about that one apart from: You get loads of new vocabs; find out about the different structures of a sentence; grow confident in the use of grammar.
That concludes my recipe for the perfect text. I know that my texts are far from perfect, but maybe that list here will help you write your next homework.