Focusing your mind on writing can be hard, creative writing or otherwise. I know I will sit down to write and struggle to get out ten words, so how am I supposed to write a five page paper when I can barely get out ten words? Every student struggles with writing papers, at least the ones I have talked to, and it’s a common problem, so why haven’t we looked for ways to write faster and better? That’s what I’m here for (in theory XD) so, without further ado, here are my top ten tips for how to become a more efficient, and hopefully better, writer!
1. Break it down: While for some it is easy to sit down and pound out a ten page paper, generally it’s easier to break your paper into parts. Write your introduction and a body paragraph one day, write a few more body paragraphs the next, and then finish up with your conclusion. Don’t try to force yourself to simply sit in front of your computer for hours on end to continuously write a paper or a story. You won’t get much out of it other than a headache, and your writing will likely not be your best. Break it down, and this will save you stress in the long run and also give you a chance for breaks to help your writing, hopefully.
2. Be yourself: This one applies to both creative writers, as well as anyone writing research papers. Don’t try to copy your favorite author when writing, but you can practice imitating their style but shape it to make it yours. You will enjoy writing a lot more if you are using your own style to write your own characters. Where technical papers are concerned, if you’re using outside sources, try not to use too many, and don’t imitate their style of writing in your own paper. Even if you aren’t using sources, try your best to keep your own voice through the paper. If you don’t usually use really technical language like “gasconade,” which means to boast or brag, (don’t worry I had to look this up, it’s not common language for most) then don’t add it to your paper. Try to remain as true to your own voice when you can, and your paper will flow and sound a lot better. It will also make it easier for you to write in the long run if you are comfortable with your own writing voice, as opposed to trying to mimic someone else’s.
3. Don’t give up: Another that might seem simple, but it is oh so important. Giving up seems like the easiest thing when you’re struggling with a paper. This won’t help you though, you need to push through. If you’re really struggling with development or even starting your paper, come into the Writing Center! We are here to help and make sure you feel confident in your writing when you finally turn it in. For creative writers, this is especially important if you are working to improve your craft. Even if you lose the will to write some days, force yourself to write. This will give you a portfolio of work to look back on how you have progressed, as well as possibly give you new ideas. JUST DO IT! (Yes, I know it’s an old reference, but let me have my moment, okay?)
4. Avoid being repetitive: I know it’s very easy to reach the point in your paper where you’re simply reiterating what you’ve already said, which is redundant. When you feel like you’re restating yourself, take a break. Walk away. Leave your writing alone for a little while and try to brainstorm some new ideas. Don’t constantly restate what you’ve already stated (I’ve used “state” multiple times now as an example, try to ensure your vocabulary doesn’t get repetitive as well), it will get tiresome for both you and your reader.
5. Write from an outline: Using an outline will be helpful in forcing you to consider what the most important parts of your paper are going to be. It will help you to seriously evaluate your topic and what you’re writing, and a lot of people push outlines without ever explaining why. Also, keep in mind that it will force a structure onto your writing, so that means less writing in circles about what you want to talk about and more getting straight to the point. We have a post already made about Writing an Outline if you need some tips!
6. DO NOT RAMBLE: This one is hard to avoid, especially if you’re trying to meet a word count. You can very easily fall into, “This is my name, that is, my name, which is mine as it was given to me by my parents upon my birth, my name, Reyna that is, is my name.” This is the kind of sentence you want to avoid when writing. You aren’t going anywhere with the sentence except in circles, and this isn’t helpful to you or your paper. If you find yourself writing like this, take a break or try to find something about your topic that you didn’t know. This will give your brain a chance to relax and possibly supply you with a new topic to help you avoid rambling.
7. Get rid of distractions: I’ve mentioned this method before in my post “How to Focus on Studying” and it remains a good method, especially when you are trying to write. While I mention in the post I listen to music when I’m trying to study, the same doesn’t apply when I’m trying to write. Noise distracts my thought process, so it’s got to be quiet for me to write efficiently and effectively. Try this one out if you feel like you simply cannot focus on writing, ever. Turn off the TV, put your phone up, don’t have any extra tabs open on you computer or laptop, and see if it helps. At most I would only suggest an instrumental song or one that you have heard so many times it will fade into the background very easily.
8. Brainstorm: I feel like I should point out these are in no particular order as this should have gone before number five, but it’s all the way down here /shrug. Brainstorming prior to starting your paper is probably one of the best things you can do to help your writing process along. It gives you a chance to look at all of your ideas where the topic is concerned and to figure out what main points you are looking to make. This will also assist in writing an outline, having some kind of idea as to what you’re going to be writing about will allow you to be more productive with your ideas.
9. Plan ahead: Set aside time that is specifically for writing. This connects with get rid of outside distractions. You need to be focused to be able to write efficiently and effectively, this means you need to know that a specific chunk of your day is going to be completely cut out for writing. No outside distractions allowed, you need to concentrate on your writing so you can get a good grade on your paper or just so you can be proud of what you wrote. I did this this past weekend and shut myself in my room for a few hours to focus on writing a paper, I’d told myself I would do this all week and was able to focus better on what I was writing. Yes, I still distracted myself, but they were small distractions that were five minute breaks so my brain didn’t explode. This one is tested and approved.
10. Don’t stress: This one is last on purpose. The top thing on my list of methods to not die while writing is trying not to stress, in the end it’s just going to muddle your writing because you don’t feel confident in what you’re doing. Trust in yourself that you are writing to the best of your ability and try to follow some of the steps above. It’s not a guaranteed catch all method, nothing is, but it should help put your mind at ease and improve your writing. This means not procrastinating, I know it’s hard, but that’s what is going to stress you out the most. Come into the Writing Center if you’re really nervous, I know it’s the second time I’m plugging us in this post, but we are here to help. We aren’t the end all be all of knowledge, we also aren’t your professor, but we can be an extra brain to help with any problems you feel like you’re having with your paper. Trust us, we do this a lot. 😉
I hope these ten tips will help you in your writing process. I’m not claiming these are going to work for everyone and I want to make that clear, one of the biggest things is that you are going to have to want them to work, not try them once and when one doesn’t work get upset. It takes practice and patience, and if you run out of hope come in! We’ll help you out, it’s what we are here to do, it might seem scary, but really we just want to help you feel confident in your writing. Good luck!