Kick up your writing!

25 insights I’ve learned on becoming a better writer

1.25 years of my experience, broken down into 3 minutes for you.

It’s crazy how amateur I was when I started writing.

But it’s even crazier knowing how the same fingers who wrote this embarrassing piece are the same fingers that got me to the top Medium stories, Fast Company, HuffingtonPost, Lifehack, Thought Catalog, Social Media Examiner….and a bunch more I can’t remember.

You might be wondering,

Did I take online courses? Did I know the editors of these giant publications? Did I enjoy writing?

Nope, nope and definitely not.

Writing was never my skill, or something I felt passionate about. I sucked at it. BIG time.

My thoughts would scatter in all directions like pool balls. I’d make awkward word choices (some of which I made up, or thought existed in the dictionary). And the worst one — forgetting what I really wanted to say in my message.

My mind just goes on auto-pilot once I hit the details. 😑

What I’m trying to say here is, I’m nobody special when it comes to writing. I had to keep climbing the mountain until finally, I wrote my most heartfelt piece, which quickly got filled with dozens of replies — most of them wishing me the best for my future. This, alone, motivated me to keep going. Keep writing. Every single day. Rain or shine.

Now I get 50,000+ views for the 4–5 posts that I publish every month.

My March 2017 stats

And a read ratio that averages around 40%.

My March 2017 read ratio stats

So if you want to be a better writer, you need to put in the work. There’s no cheating your way around it.

That said, here’re 25 insights I’ve learned from writing I personally believe will help you with yours.

  1. Just write. 80% of success is just showing up — on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, Quora, GetPocket, whichever platform you use most. The key is to get your name stuck to people’s minds to the point where they can’t help but think of you offline.
  2. Never, ever, waste your reader’s time. You’d only be wasting yours.
  3. Write down EVERY idea that comes to you. Doesn’t matter if you’re half-asleep, talking to a friend, or driving. It takes 8 seconds before you get distracted and forget about it. So make sure you keep a notebook and pen by your side, or a note-taking app (if you prefer).
  4. Get hurt. Fall in love. Vent out your anger. I’m not saying this should be your mission, but know that every little emotion fuels your writing. You won’t notice this at first, but once your readers start dropping a bombful of comments in your post, you will.
  5. Build an email list. People are very forgetful when it comes to bookmarking their favorite writers. So remind them of why they subscribed to you by sending them daily/weekly updates. You’ll start seeing your responses and recommends skyrocket like never before.
  6. Learn the rules of grammar, then learn to break them. If you ever want your writing to stand out, you need to “think outside the book.” Do things other writers are scared to try.
  7. Improve your read ratio, not your views. Views are important (don’t get me wrong), but having a high read ratio grows your name in the long run. Sure, it’s a bigger challenge getting people to read an entire post, especially when we have so many online and offline distractions to deal with. But the more people who find your stories fascinating, the more followers and subscribers (See point #5) you’ll get. And before you know it, your readers will dig deep into your social networks, trying to figure out who you are and what you do.Isn’t that more worth your time than blasting mediocre stuff to those who just come-and-go-and-possibly-never-come-back? (See point #2)Point taken.
  8. Disconnect from the Internet and the rest of the world. You get more work done if you just focus and write.
  9. Write what you know. Write what interests you. Write about your life — it’s the one thing people can’t steal from you.
  10. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus available whenever you write. There’re dozens of ways to say one thing better.
  11. Be as descriptive as you can.
    Instead of: By the time I hit 24, I was extremely underweight.
    Try: By the time I hit 24, I was 5’5″ and bearing a 112 lb figure.You want more meat on your hook.
  12. Read what successful writers write. There’s a reason why thousands of people follow them.
  13. Read what successful writers recommend. Most of them have read plenty enough to know what’s good and what’s s***.
  14. Don’t stay put in one spot for too long. Your creativity will sulk (trust me, I know). Move. Get up. Take a 15 min walk. The faster your blood moves, the faster oxygen gets to your brain. Hence, better ideas, better results.
  15. Link back to your old posts. Because the more posts you publish, the further your old ones are pushed out of sight.
  16. Don’t cheap out on your headline. If you can’t attract people to click on your post, then you wasted your whole time writing a piece nobody wants to read. It’s the same as if you never wrote anything at all.
    (My personal guide to writing a great headline)
  17. Shut your inner editor up and understand that 1st drafts are always horrible and ugly. Just finish what you started, then proofread once you’re done. It’s easier to fix a bad story than to create a story right from scratch.
  18. Get Grammarly and save yourself from the harsh remarks of grammar Nazis. It’ll auto-highlight your grammar & spelling mistakes as soon you hit space or enter.
  19. Show more whitespace. It’s an eye-sore to read paragraphs vs sentences.
  20. Everyone says this, but read, read, read. It’s the fastest way to expand your vocabulary and mold your writing, using all sorts of styles from different writers.
  21. Dump out those passive verbs (e.g. is/be/are/has) for action verbs.
    Instead of: I was inspired by her work ethics.
    Say: Her work ethics inspired me.
  22. If you’re new on Medium, write shorter. This lets readers get a feel for how & what you write. Plus, you can probably push out 2x more posts — another way to grow your name in the beginning.
  23. Write as if you’re talking to a friend. Write the way you talk. It’ll be extremely refreshing because the majority of writers still write in proper English.
  24. Write for 30 minutes everyday. This is the basic habit for mastering a skill.
  25. After you post, reach out to the editors of big name sites and submit your post. It’ll be one extra source of traffic to grow your name.

Published by Tiffany

I’m fighting to rebuild my life by doing the things I never dreamed of doing. Now in Southeast Asia, writing my journey.


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