You’ve definitely heard this well-known quote from Greek philosopher Socrates: “I know that I know nothing.” His willingness to find and acknowledge the limits of his knowledge is what made him one of the wisest men in Athens.
Being able to examine the limits of your knowledge requires critical thinking. And it’s something writers should get familiar with. Why? Because it leads to better writing.
Getting a clear definition of “critical thinking” is about as difficult as the act itself. Generally speaking, however, critical thinking is the ability to do what Socrates did: examine facts from multiple angles and derive a conclusion from them. This can be applied directly to writing. After all, what is writing but observing the world, drawing conclusions others might have missed, and putting it all to paper? This is even true in fiction, where authors often strive to answer important questions about the things that make us human.
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably not a philosopher. You’re a writer. But critical thinking is essential to your craft, especially when it’s broken down into these six skills.Continue reading
When I first started on my writing journey, my mentor offered me a few books on writing. One of them was this tiny gray book I’d never heard of before: The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. When my mentor handed it to me, he warned me that it could be pretty dense.
The Elements of Style is a book with a certain … notoriety. Do your own quick Google search, and you’ll find no end to people who hold it up as a holy text of the craft and just as many who admonish it as an abomination.
As it is with many things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. But whether you’ve never heard of the book before or you already have a strong opinion about it, here are four lessons every writer can learn from this little gray book.Continue reading
How can you use your writing to sell something? Whether you’re a novelist, a content marketer, or any other kind of writer, eventually you’ll have to write something that needs to be persuasive.
Decades ago, copywriters fought to get the attention of potential customers in print. Print ads ran in magazines or as mailbox-stuffers, and there was tremendous pressure to keep readers engaged long enough to sell a product or service. Joseph Sugarman was one of the most successful copywriters in this era. In one of his most popular ads, Sugarman sold a spelling computer by filling his ad with typos and offering $10 off the computer for each typo a customer found. He wrote a book, The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, that shows readers how he did it.
It turns out that no matter what — or in which decade — you write, you can learn a lot from copywriters like Sugarman. I’m a copywriter myself at my day job, and my fiction has greatly improved from what I’ve learned doing this job every day.
Here are the five best writing lessons from The Adweek Copywriting Handbook.Continue reading
Writing endings has never been my strong suit. When a friend finished reading my first novel, the first thing she said was, “I hate the ending.” To me, the ending was perfect. It wrapped up the protagonist’s story while setting up the next book. So I asked her why she felt that way. She said, “It’s not satisfying.”
I’d run into the biggest obstacle to writing endings and conclusions. That obstacle is a two-word question: “So what?” That’s what someone says when they feel like everything they just read didn’t have an impact on them.
This problem doesn’t only happen with novels. Whether you’re writing a blog post, a college paper, or any kind of content, you must do battle with “so what?” If you want your reader to feel like your piece was worth the time they spent reading it, you need to learn how to write a satisfying conclusion.
Here’s how it’s done, in three simple steps.Continue reading