Pen to Perfection: Mastering Your Writing Skills with These Tips
Do you want to Improve your writing skills to write a book or great articles? You are not alone. Many people dream of writing a book someday and I was no exception. But how do you learn to write, what is involved, and how to avoid the most common writing mistakes? As I started to write more, I also started to believe that learning how to write is a matter of writing a lot. Put your pen on the paper or your fingers on the keyboard and keep on writing.
However, it can only be useful to keep a few tips in mind to save you a lot of setbacks and frustration. And a small lesson in storytelling can never hurt either. Everyone has his or her own approach to learning how to write and I am not a guru in this area. But I can share with you how I improved my writing.
Three tips when you start writing a book or article
Writing is telling a story. Even if you can tell so fascinatingly, if the subject is not fun, it becomes difficult for your audience to keep their attention. That is why my first tip is:
- TIP 1: Choose a subject that you are passionate about and test whether others might also have or can develop a passion for it.
Even if your subject is not that exciting, you can of course always make it interesting. More important than a fascinating topic, however, is the message that you want to convey. What is it that you want the reader to get or remember after reading your book or article?
- TIP 2: Always keep in mind the main message that you want to convey and find and write about the examples, anecdotes, opinions, or facts that reinforce your message.
When you start writing, keep writing until your fingers hurt. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about the 10.000 miles you have to walk to become excellent in any profession. The art after that is to scrape until what remains is really good. Sometimes the example is good, but it does not sound nice and sometimes the anecdote, opinion or fact is not very strong, but by the way of telling it, reinforces your main message.
- TIP 3: Dare to delete more than half of what you have written. Of the thousand words you write, perhaps only 500 are needed to make clear to the reader what you mean. Less is always better if you use the best part of what you wrote.
Meaningful Profit > I am not alone in this world.
In 2010 I wrote about 230 pages in 2 weeks about how I saw the perfect company, with the title: “I am not alone in the world”. I actually had no intention of making a book out of it. The reason was that as an entrepreneur I was frustrated that many of my former employees did not fully understand my ideal image of a company called Meaningful Profit.
By putting all aspects of the perfect company on paper, I hoped that after reading, it would be better to understand what revolution I wanted to create. Gradually a book formed in my eyes and when it was finished I had only 1 thought: And now what!?
Delete and write and do it again to improve your writing
I was afraid to let anyone read it, because who was I? Yet I gathered all my courage and gave the manuscript to 2 strangers and 2 acquaintances because I believe that any kind of feedback will make you grow. The days passed and when I received the first feedback 5 days later, It turned out that I still had a long way to go before a readable book would be published. The reader literally had to struggle through the pages to understand something of it. So that was a reason to delete and rewrite!
With the help of Wassili Zafiris and Aranka van der Pol, we decided to keep the core message but turn the content completely upside down. Every example and anecdote, opinion, and fact was put under a magnifying glass and more than half was deleted or replaced by better content.
It can always be better, so make it better if you write
8 months later there was a second version and this started to form quite a book. Because we were all three busy with our jobs and the book project was an in-between project, we could only spend a full week on it once in a while. After we met again after a few weeks, we started reading the book from front to back and unanimously came to the same conclusion. This could be better!
Again we decided to test all subjects against the main subject and to omit or replace everything for better content. Chapters were overturned and hundreds of hours of writing were destroyed in an afternoon and then redone again in the following weeks.
The third time’s the charm
The third version was a version that made us proud. Not that we were finished, but it had become a legibly clear story. We discussed all the content once more and with little changes the book could be published.