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20 Tips for Successful Writing

To order The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life

During the past 30-plus years of professional writing, I have tried many approaches to writing – just like every other writer. Some have worked for periods of time; others lay discarded on a back trail of earlier development, or sitting inside my trunk full of journals.

Through the years, I have found 20 approaches to writing to be particularly successful. These get the job done for me, expand creativity, and keep writers excited and eager to write something new every day (see Tip #19). I originally presented 12 of these in September during my keynote speech at the Write Time Teens ‘n Twenties Conference.

I’d like to share my list of 20 tips for successful writing, and invite your comments and tips, which I will guest publish in a future blog – with a credit to you and link to your email address or website.

1) Make Every Sentence Your Best Sentence.

2) Write What You Know.

3) Write What You Feel

4) Write What You Think

5) Write What You Love. Deeply.

6) Expand Your Writing Muscles – Daily. New observations. New experiments. New dialogue. Experiment with what you don’t know, or are learning, until you know it. Then master it and write it.

7) Be a Voyeur. Hang Out At Parks, Gatherings, Clubs and Coffee Shops. Listen.

8) Cross-Read. Read three to five books simultaneously – preferably in different genres, with both male and female authors. Develop the cross-connections that create magical metaphors and similes.

9) Be Comfortably Uncomfortable. Read out of your genre. Write out of your genre. To paraphrase former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, give yourself permission to write the things you would never say out loud.

10) Let No One Define You

11) Silence Your Inner Censor – Forever!

12) Explore. Experience. Emote.

13) Drive into Your Heart & Soul – Then Up to the Heights of Ecstasy. Live in the middle, but be willing to venture to your emotional and intellectual extremes to write the sentence that changes your reader’s world – and yours.

14) Center Everywhere, Circumference Nowhere. Write with you, the narrator, subject or character in the middle of every observation, movement and feeling. Take this statement from wise Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore into your work.

15) Write Sense-ually. Employ the five senses – and a few others, such as the senses of movement, balance, temperature, thought, ego/other, life/well-being, and speech/language.

16) Enliven Places. Make your settings and locations living, breathing participants of your stories, essays and poems,

17) Hide Nothing. As poet/warrior Robert Bly said, “stand before your audience naked.”

18) Read Your Writing Out Loud. Always.

19) Finish HOT. Leave a juicy paragraph open and exposed until the next day – then run with it.

20) Finish What You Start (whenever possible). It is very easy to start a work, but if you do not get to “The End,” the finish line will appear further away with your next writing project.

See how these tips work for you. For me, they condense more than 30 years of trying to find the right approach. I swear by them.

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