5 Simple Writing Prompts That Will Dramatically Improve Your Writing
Writing every day, let alone writing well, is often viewed as an art, which can be intimidating for many. Some writers can turn out between two and five thousand words every day without batting an eye.
I write every day, only about 2,000 words per. But what if you’re worried about not producing on a daily basis? Does this signal the end of your dreams as a writer?
Not at all.
Worry not wannabe wordsmiths. There’s hope for you, too. Although it’s difficult to study writing with any precision and, therefore, hard for you to know specifically what to do in order to write well, let alone on a daily basis, just read and write every single day.
Improving writers should not take days off. The inspiring, Jon Morrow, said that when he was starting out, as a writer, he wrote two-thousand words every single day for his first year of writing. Paralyzed from the neck down, Morrow was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), at a young age. Unlike most kids who grow stronger as they age, he grew weaker. He can only move his facial muscles, which he uses to verbally dictate his words for transcription.
Morrow is one of the world’s most renowned bloggers and one of his blogs, SmartBlogger earns him over $100,000 per month. Needless to say, he’s an amazing success story.
However, most accomplished writers agree that there are two ways to become a better writer: read and write everyday. Read a variety of books, magazines, newspapers and digital publications. Read genres that normally do not appeal to you.
Because the greater variety of topics will only serve to educate you, and reading is its own reward.
Are you still doubtful? That’s okay.
Anyone can write and with regular practice, so can you. Yes, you will learn to write well with daily practice.
The immortal words of Margaret Atwood (author of Handmaid’s Tale & Alias Grace) once said: “You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built into the human plan.”
After all, we are all storytellers. Daily practice will transform your writing from poor to average, and from average to great.
It’s important to remember that we’re all procrastinators-in-recovery, poets, armchair philosophers, writer’s block survivors, and more often than not, solitary storytellers.
Still with me? Well, you’ve read this far, right? Here is your deserved reward. Follow these five powerful writing prompts that will take your writing to the next level:
Write without stopping
Write 500 words every day, for three consecutive months, without stopping. Just write about whatever’s on your mind: stream-of-consciousness writing. Do this upon awakening, before you’ve had that first cup of coffee or step into the shower. Just sit down and write your thoughts. Do not focus on paragraphs, sentence structure, spelling or anything else which might distract you from the end goal: 500 words.
Why do this? It will teach you to write on cue. Think about how important writing on cue can be: deadline-training. Professional writers all learn to deal with deadlines, and so should you. Another notable benefit of this prompt is that if you do this at the same time every day it’ll start coming more easily as your brain gets used to that schedule. You’re training yourself to write on cue.
Editing: someone else’s writing, not your own
Do you want to improve your editing skills — and who doesn’t? Edit someone else’s writing. While getting feedback, on your writing, can always be helpful. But it comes with at a price…criticism of your work.
Go to medium.com, or another platform, and choose a blog post, something that you normally wouldn’t read. If you’re not into sports find a post that’s sports-themed. If you’re not into spirituality then go with that. Pick a writer, and a genre, which you know nothing about so that you can better focus on the editing process.
Read through the selected post only once. Then go back through it and find as many ways to improve it as possible. Look out for the following:
-long sentences that can be shortened
-vague points that need clarification
-anywhere that formatting can be added (bold, italics, etc.)
-adding an image to better flush out an idea
Better still, copy the text of your selected post and paste it into your text editor so that you can adjust the post as you go. Do this for no more than 10 to 15 minutes. Also remember to note what the author has done well while you’re editing. You can also learn from this.
Improve Your Headlines
Coming up with new topics is one of the more difficult parts of writing. And even though it’s not writing per se, it’s a significant part of the writing process. After all, you need a good idea before starting a draft.
Sit down with a pen and paper and allow 10 minutes to just write out various topic ideas. Sure, most of it will be crap. But you’ll come up with a couple of good ideas, which will be useful.
Select 10 headlines from your RSS, Medium.com or Twitter feed to steal. Write those down on a piece of paper. Then walk away from your desk and any other digital connection that you may access. Just take a brisk walk, about five minutes, then return to your desk. Spend the next five minutes coming up with as many topic ideas as you can.
You want 10 headlines, in the beginning, just to warm up your brain. Again, do not look at your computer or phone. However, feel free to stare into space and get lost in your thoughts as much as your heart’s content. You may find this to be very challenging. This will help you to train your brain to be more creative.
Lazy writing is when you seek a cliche, an easy word or an old idea because you cannot think of anything else to write. As an example, numerous new writers end their articles with the word ‘conclusion,’ instead of coming up with a compelling sub-head which rounds their piece.
Go with the word ‘said,’ and avoid the reach for clever writing. Just let the characters’ actions and words do the work.
Don’t do this: “This first draft makes no sense, Paul,” the editor bellowed loudly.
Do this: The editor pounded the table. “Paul, your first draft is crap.”
“To write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine,” Stephen King.
Use The Active Voice
The active voice is the best way to turbocharge your writing. It demonstrates continued action on behalf of the subject. For example, “I tossed my first draft in the trash” contains an active verb. In this case, “I” is the subject and “tossed” is the active verb.
Sounds easy, right?
Well, numerous new writers use the passive voice without ever realizing it.
“The article about grammar was written by me.”
“The 10K was run by her in under 90 minutes.”
Let’s fix the sentences above.
“I wrote the article about grammar.”
“She ran the 10K in under 90 minutes.”
Again, you can find examples of the passive voice faster by reading a print-out of your work and searching for verbs ending in ‘ed’.
There are many more writing prompts and hacks but it’s best to start with only five prompts. If you do these prompts every day your writing will gradually improve. And before too long, you’ll be helping other wannabe wordsmiths too.