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
You have just finished writing a literary masterpiece (if you don’t mind saying so yourself), but you can’t help but feel like there’s something missing. You reread it over and over again, countless times. All of the points you wanted to make are there; the flow makes sense, but it still doesn’t feel right.
Maybe the content itself isn’t the problem. The writing just doesn’t have that oomph or pop that you are looking for. Instead, it just lays flat.
Writing, as you know, isn’t only about coming up with plotlines or new and exciting twists that excite your reader at every turn. It’s more than that. Writing involves a certain flair that flows through not only the content but also through every sentence and every word.
An effective way to add that flair to any literary work is by using wordplay.Continue reading
Picture this: You have this feeling that you had a great idea recently about something related to the essay you’re currently writing, but you just can’t remember it. But what if you had a digital note-taking system with tags, where you have kept all such ideas? It would take you mere minutes to go through the tag “essay,” and voila!
When I was in high school, apart from what was needed for studying, I didn’t take notes. It wasn’t until I was in college that I began to take notes on a daily basis. It was a downward spiral from there.
I started to fill one notebook after another with notes of books I read, videos I watched, my own thoughts, or interesting quotes. This continued until a few months ago, when I realized something momentous.
My note-taking habit was ineffective.
Despite the many notes I took, I barely remembered what I had learned. I couldn’t recall the memorable quote and interesting story I’d written down when I needed it. Worse still, I had to start from scratch with every new writing project—research again while racking my brain for little details to back up my points.
I took notes the same way school had taught me—that is, writing down verbatim what I learned and keeping the notes in the same place, never to look back again except for exams. Only, in real life there are no exams, so I didn’t bother to revisit the notes at all. Thus, all the hard effort went down the drain.
I realized I had to adopt a new strategy.
In this post I’ll show you why the old-fashioned way of taking notes fails us and how switching to digital note-taking can save the day—boosting your productivity and helping you succeed in your writing goals.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