Improving your Writing

Latest Update: Added Sacha’s 5 Ways to Deal with Writer’s Block.

Lamy Safari - Close up of Nib

Getting Started

Want to write every day? Chris Brogan says “The secret to writing every day is to write every day” – so just Write Every Day. He offers some tips on how to find the time to do a bit of writing, and you’ll probably find that if you do it a bit more often, you’ll get better at it.

Getting Better

  • The Day You Became a Better Writer – Scott Adams says he went from being a bad writer to being a good writer in a one day course. Here he passes on the majority of what he learned. It’s surprisingly simple.
  • Writing Tips from Paul Graham – How to Live.org list great writing tips from writer and entrepreneur Paul Graham. A good list of tips to get started (or re-started) with any writing project.
  • Copyblogger’s Copywriting 101 – a short course in copywriting. Yeah, copywriting is for ads and things, but how much of what you’re writing is trying to sell something, even if it’s just an idea? Hey, I’m trying to sell you this free copywriting course right now. Full of the sort of advice that sounds really obvious once you’ve read it, which is usually the best sort. Starting with “Don’t Read This Post (or the Kitty Gets It)!” – how can you resist reading that?
  • Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully – in Ten Minutes by Stepen King. He knows what he’s talking about. Ten minutes doesn’t sound like enough time, but he follows his own advice on getting to the point. If you only read one article linked here, this should be the one.
  • George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language – a fairly long essay. If you’re short of time, at least skip to the bullet points towards the end starting “Never use a metaphor…” The whole thing is good, but those rules are the highlight for me.
  • Angela Booth’s Ten Best Writing Tips – she’s been doing it for 25 years, and here she shares a few tricks and secrets. Tip Eight sounds especially good – keep writing and editing apart. When you’re writing, just write, and let it flow. Edit afterwards. “If you don’t have trouble talking, how can you have trouble writing?”
  • You Don’t Need Permission to Create from Ripples – some good, practical advice for getting started and getting better.
  • Writerisms and other Sins – a useful guide to overused and misused language.

Getting it Right

Grammar and spelling mistakes aren’t a problem in a quick email to a friend. In business emails, they can give a poor impression. If you’re trying to take writing more seriously, though, getting it right starts to become important.

Tips

Planning and Organising Stories and Plots

Writing for the Web

  • SEO – Search Engine Optimisation. My own take is that generally, you’re better off writing and designing your site with people in mind, and the better search engines get at their job, the better you’ll look. Leave it to Google to improve your results. That said, there are some great tips at SEO Copywriting Techniques that Readers Love – ways to optimize for search engines that make things better for people, too.
  • Writing Content for your Blog from ProBlogger’s Blogging for Beginners series – some good stuff for everyone, not just beginners. I’m sure we could benefit from mixing our sources more, rather than just posting ten things in a row from Make:, then doing the same thing the next day from Boing Boing.
  • Scannable Content – from ProBlogger – on making your writing easier to scan through without reading fully. People often won’t read a whole article on the web, so making your content scannable could at least mean they’ll get the idea of what you’re trying to tell them. Little things like using bits of bold can help ;)
  • Writing Gooder at ProBlogger – some excellent advice for writing. Aimed at bloggers, but just as relevant if you’re writing articles or even a novel. “Once you have the mad writing skillz, nothing will stand in your way of taking over the blogosphere.”

Fighting Writer’s Block

Inspiration

  • Keeping a Journal can be a good way to get your writing flowing every day.
  • Innowen suggests you get a little help from your friends – “Friendstorming, or the art of generating ideas with a little help of your friends has helped me generate ideas in ways that I’m not sure I would’ve found otherwise.” Not just a great suggestion, but a great new word too – friendstorming.
  • Where do you get your ideas from? – the question all writers seem to dread. Neil Gaiman has a go at answering it. Turns out he makes them up. From his head. Good reading, actually, this.
  • Use Your Imagination – How to get the story rolling in your head before getting it down on paper.
  • Writing From Your Life – from Angela Booth. Some tips on how to get the best from your own experience and imagination.

Guitar Tips

Latest Update: linking to a step by step guide on how to change the strings.


A collection of tips for those keen strummers out there.

Playing Guitar

  • Guitar Noise think they have the Best Way to Learn Guitar. They mix in real music notation along with the tab, which I always find a little offputting, and there doesn’t seem to be much on scales, but there are some very good lessons in the form of learning actual songs. If you want to be able to play a song or two reasonably quickly, or you’re more interested in rhythm guitar than lead, there’s plenty here. (Via Lifehacker, and as usual, there’s more tips from their readers in the comments.)
  • ActoGuitar – a whole mass of online lessons. Nicely written, and includes some videos too. Could do with a few more diagrams, but a bit of searching can soon fill in that sort of thing elsewhere. Great stuff. Yes, obviously it was thanks to Gary again.
  • Guitar Solo – Scales, Licks etc – A good resource of tutorials. Thanks again to Gary!
  • Fingerpicking Guitar Lessons from Eltjo Haselhoff – Starting from the basics, like not cutting your fingers, but soon moves on. You’d probably want to suplement this with some other stuff, but there’s certainly quite a bit of useful info here. Thanks to Gary for finding this one.
  • Guitar GAS – Things every beginner guitarist should have – Essential basic equipment for anyone starting out. The last one on their list is often the hardest one to find. ;)
  • GuitarGAS Tips and Cheats #1 – Barre Chord Avoidance. Perfect for those of us not blessed with long, slender, neck-friendly fingers.
  • GuitarGAS Tips and Cheats #2 – Chord Sequences for Songwriters. Good advice on what chords work well together.
  • GuitarGAS Tips and Cheats #3 – Knowing the whole neck. A guide to the CAGED system.
  • GuitarGAS Tips and Cheats #4 – Another easy visual way of remembering chord shapes.
  • The Zen Guitar Dojo – Learning and jamming with a zen approach. Thanks, Blue!

Modifying Guitars

Guitar Maintenance

  • Changing Strings – it’s a stinker of a job but every guitar player has to do it (unless, of course, you have a guy to do it for you). Here Simon Lees offers a step by step photo guide on how to change strings. Thanks to Black River Blues guitar legend Gary for spotting that!

Guitar Accessories

Fun Stuff

  • God of Guitar’s Guide to Poses – How to pose when playing guitar. Follow these tips and you might just make next year’s Men With Guitars List – though you’ll need better wigs than these guys. Thanks go to the God of Steel Wheels, Darren Beniston, for this corker.

Tips from Sam’s favourite Man With Guitar.

>RULE 3 >Invest in a good, big hat. Wear it.

>…A Les Paul Standard will sting you for a good £2,200, while a couple of Alnico II Pro humbuckers will cost about £90 apiece. Admittedly, Slash did have a signature model created for him – but only 5- were ever made, of which Slash had two (one of which was nicked) and another recently went for $7000 at auction. Stop daydreaming, pal – it ain’t gonna happen.