6 Killer Writing Tips

December 18, 2008

If you write for a living, or you need to write as part of your job, you probably know what it’s like to feel isolated as you work. But there are some great writing communities online and hundreds of generous writers are happy to share their writing tips.

Whether you’re a freelance writer, a novelist, or you write to promote your business, you’re sure to pick up something useful among these 6 killer writing tips.

Kill Adjectives - The Right Way

Knowing when to kill adjectives from my writing has been something I’ve struggled with for a long time. Editing what you’ve written and wiping the little suckers out is easy enough. But when are you supposed to leave them in?

I asked Joanna Young the question and she gave me a great explanation on when to slay and when to spare adjectives. No matter what type of writing you do, if the adjectives thing confuses you too, you need to check out what Joanna has to say in: When Adjectives Are Necessary.

Create A Killer Character

Writing about the villain in a story can be tough. I struggled with it earlier this year. My villain was just too bad to be believable. In the real world, he’d never have got away with killing one person, never mind several. He was so mean that he’d be the number one suspect right away.

If you’re struggling with this type of writing too, Melissa Donovan shares some great tips in: How To Write A Complex Villain

Tell A Killer Business Story

Telling a story is a powerful way for your business to get your message across. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out Brad Shorr’s 5 Simple Storytelling Techniques and create a killer story for your business.

Become A Killer Freelance Writer

Want to get started in freelance writing but not sure where to start? Amy Derby shares some killer advice for freelance writers, in: Write What You Know And Sell It.

Killer Sales Tips For Freelance Writers

If you want to become a killer freelance writer, you’ve got to learn how to close the sale. John Hewitt shows you how to do this, in a few easy steps in: Successful Freelance Writers Know How To Close The Sale.

And if you’re looking for killer freelance writing jobs, you need to bookmark John’s Writing Jobs and Links page, which is updated regularly.

A Killer Way To Promote Your Book

Some writers do book tours to promote new books. But this can be costly and time consuming. Lillie Amman shares a killer way to promote your book - a blog book tour. She recently did a blog book tour to promote her new novel, Dream or Destiny and she shares how she did it, in a series, beginning with: Blog Book Tour Part 1 - What Is It?

Did you find these writing tips useful? Do you have any killer writing tips of your own to share?

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Image Credit: Randen Peterson

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22 Responses to “6 Killer Writing Tips”

  1. Joanna Young on December 18th, 2008 8:09 am

    I think this post should be included as killer advice on writing headlines!

    Thanks for sharing my post on adjectives - glad you found it useful.

    Joanna Young’s last blog post..Simply The Best: Reminder

  2. Lillie Ammann on December 18th, 2008 8:47 am

    I agree with Joanna on the headlines in this post. Thanks for including my post among these great articles.

    Lillie Ammann’s last blog post..By: The Generosity of Bloggers

  3. Kelvin Kao on December 18th, 2008 9:37 am

    I thought it was going to be another one of those posts about how to write a better blog, but I like the links you’ve shared here. I tend to have problems writing characters. The stories I write are generally driven by the plot, and I just invent characters as I go to get the actions done. Not necessarily a bad thing to do, but the downside is that the characters just aren’t as strong.

    Kelvin Kao’s last blog post..A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa

  4. Brad Shorr on December 18th, 2008 11:57 am

    Hi Cath, thanks for the killer post!

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..UK Readers, Please Help Me Understand

  5. James Chartrand - Men with Pens on December 18th, 2008 12:02 pm

    Kill adjectives? WTF? Adjectives are the color that fills a lined b/w picture. Remove them, and you’ve removed the richness that paints a mental portrait.

    James Chartrand - Men with Pens’s last blog post..How to Deal with Cranks, Flamers and Trolls

  6. cathlawson on December 18th, 2008 12:48 pm

    Hi Joanna - Thanks. Your post was useful to me - it’s a subject I’ve struggled with for a while.

    Hi Lillie - Thanks - your advice on doing a blog tour is excellent.

    Hi Kelvin - there’s lots of ways you could develop the characters more. I write about the characters seperately, to help create them - putting them in different situations to see how they react.

    Another useful thing to do is to is pretend you have a suitcase full of things that are significant to your character. Then write about why each thing is important to them.

    Hi Brad - Thanks, I loved your post.

    Hi James - you’re joking right? Don’t you think to many adjectives weaken your writing?

  7. James Chartrand - Men with Pens on December 18th, 2008 12:58 pm

    I’m not joking in the least, and I don’t think anyone would say that my writing is weak. If they feel that, then it’ll certainly be the first I’ve heard about it.

    Here’s an example.

    “I’m reading a book.” Yeah? So what?

    “I’m reading a good book.” Oh! A good book, well, then.

    “I’m voraciously reading a really good book!” You can now mentally see James leafing through the pages.

    I’ve provided extra stimuli for your brain. Cut out the adjectives? All you have is bland text. That’s weak? No.

    Adjectives are damned smart - but I will say, used well. There’s such a think as overkill.

    James Chartrand - Men with Pens’s last blog post..How to Deal with Cranks, Flamers and Trolls

  8. cathlawson on December 18th, 2008 1:13 pm

    Hi James - I don’t think your writing is weak. But I don’t think you’ve given a good example. The sentence, “I’m reading a book” is bland but adding “voraciously” and “really” and especially the exclamation mark, don’t make it sound better.

    I hate exclamation marks - I don’t understand why people use them. They should fine, or jail teachers who inflict them on our kids.

    Bet there’s a better why you could describe reading a book without using adjectives.

  9. James Chartrand - Men with Pens on December 18th, 2008 1:16 pm

    Well, considering it’s 8am, I haven’t had enough coffee and this is just an example, I wasn’t pulling out Pulitzer prose, here.

    I just extremely strongly disagree that writing without adjectives is something to encourage. I’m rather stunned you’d suggest such a thing - writing has become boring enough as it is without removing its color, too.

    James Chartrand - Men with Pens’s last blog post..How to Deal with Cranks, Flamers and Trolls

  10. James Chartrand - Men with Pens on December 18th, 2008 1:18 pm

    On a side note, really isn’t an adjective and I think voraciously is an adverb.

    James Chartrand - Men with Pens’s last blog post..How to Deal with Cranks, Flamers and Trolls

  11. cathlawson on December 18th, 2008 1:27 pm

    LOL James - I didn’t mean for you to cut them out completely. And you’re right - “voraciously” is an adverb.

    But “really” is a nothing word - it has no use at all. The woman across the road over uses the word. She should have her tongue chopped off.

  12. Jannie on December 18th, 2008 2:55 pm

    I’ve learned that a well-placed verb can knock the socks off most adjectives any day. In creative writing, anyway. (All that Leonard Cohen influence, I guess.)

    I have a few online aspiring writerly buddies I MUST link to this post, Cath.

    And I think the storyline techniques may be just what I need for a writerly thing I’ve been struggling with.


    Jannie’s last blog post..Yeah, Cindy Lou Who?

  13. Jim Gaudet on December 18th, 2008 4:03 pm

    Damn it Brad, you stole my line….

    Great work Cath, you gave me 6 more things to read today…

    Jim Gaudet’s last blog post..This is Way too Personal?

  14. Craig on December 18th, 2008 5:19 pm

    Thanks, I’m slowly trying to get more involved with blog writing and need a lot of practice. The story telling is a great idea. To me it’s a great way to paint a picture with words and draw the reader in. Once hooked they will be more likely to read the rest of the post and engage with comments as well.

  15. Robin on December 18th, 2008 9:18 pm

    Hi Cath - great resources! - thanks. That’s a lovely image at the top of this post, Cath - R

    Robin’s last blog post..What If? The Movie - Clip 2

  16. Melissa Donovan on December 18th, 2008 10:22 pm

    Cath, These are definitely all killer tips and I thank you for including Writing Forward among them.

    When it comes to adjectives and adverbs (modifiers), the trick is knowing when to use them, and when to cut them. For example:

    John ran really fast toward the bookstore.

    does not have anywhere near the power of:

    John sprinted toward Borders.

    If you can replace an adjective+noun or adverb+verb combo with a single word, I’m with you Cath and I say do it. Otherwise, I agree with James in that modifiers add color and imagery to our writing.

    I use “really” all the time and have to edit it out. Ugh, bad habit.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Inside the Writing Community

  17. cathlawson on December 18th, 2008 10:23 pm

    Hi Jannie - I’m glad they helped. And thanks for telling your friends about this post. I wonder if the adjectives irritate fiction writers, more than non-fiction writers?

    LOL Jim - I guess I got carried away with all those killers.

    Hi Craig - painting a picture of what folk want is a great technique when you’re trying to sell something to them.

    Blog writing is tough to get the hang of - my earlier posts were diabolical.

    Hi Robin - Glad you liked them - the image is awesome. But I wish you’d kill those bloody exclamation marks.

  18. cathlawson on December 18th, 2008 10:29 pm

    Hi Melissa - thank you. I loved your villains post. And I like your example. I think James just didn’t have enough coffee this morning, before he gave his example.

    As you say though - there is a place for adjectives - it’s just knowing when to cut them.

    I also edit really out all the time.

  19. Kelly@SHE-POWER on December 18th, 2008 10:57 pm

    Some fabulous links here Cath, I am stumble saving the fiction ones. I was always taught that you should kill adverbs and watch your adjectives, but I’m keen to see what Joanna has to say. I am also excited about the villian post which I will read next. Your story is only ever as good as the antagonist who is trying to stop your protagonist. With a weak villian the story will go nowhere. In order to not make the villian all bad and therefore 2 dimensional, I was told that you should think of how your villian justifies his actions. He/she thinks what he’s doing is reasonable as all sociopaths do. I’m thinking of Heath Ledger’s JOKER as a good example right now - he was crazy scary but also had everything very thought out. So, you need to get in the head of your villian, know what they want and why. I find it works for me.

    Another amazing link post. Thanks, and good luck with your novel.

    Merry Christmas!

    Kelly xxx

    Kelly@SHE-POWER’s last blog post..Slow Down. Breathe. Enjoy the Moment

  20. Davina on December 19th, 2008 4:17 am

    Hi Cath. I’m editing a book right now and the author uses really and perhaps a lot! The Word document is less than 20 pages typed and the word really is found 26 times!!!! Imagine that!

    Ok, seriously, no more exclamation marks.

    I agree with Melissa, there is a time and place for modifiers. It depends on the tone of the writing. If the writing is more conversational, like the book I am editing, they will turn up more. This author uses a lot of short choppy sentences — his way of emphasizing the urgency of what he is talking about. It works, but I have to turn my business mind off and not edit the thing to death.

    I’m off to check out John’s Writing Jobs and Links. Thanks.

    Davina’s last blog post..A Positively Dysfunctional Christmas

  21. wilhb81 on December 19th, 2008 8:12 am

    WoW, this is really a brilliant 6 killer writing tips, Cath and I’ll take the advice :)
    wilhb81’s last blog post..Business one-liners 32

  22. Play Games Win Prizes on December 21st, 2008 5:22 am

    Great tips, Cath. Writing skills are highly important for bloggers, but some do not even care. There are a few bloggers out there that have HORRIBLE grammar, but have a blog of a superstar. lol.


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