The Best Writing Techniques: Tips to Write Better

Best Writing Techniques

At Freelancewithus.com, we’ve already covered many of the best writing techniques that freelance writers can use to maximize their earning potential and stay healthy while doing something they love—writing! In this article, we’ll give a few tried-and-true writing techniques for writers, as well as links to more in-depth articles.

Best Writing Techniques: Outlines

Ever get an assignment and wondered, “How am I gonna get this done?” It’s an anxiety that strikes fear into the heart of every freelancer. The antidote? Mentally work your way from the finished product to your starting point.

As a mental exercise, start with the parameters of the article/project/story and try to envision what the finished article looks like. Will it have separate chapters? What’s the word count? Can you think of any steps that need to be performed before any other? If so, you’re on your way to an outline.

Now, you don’t have to craft a written outline. Often, I’ll craft a mental outline for shorter pieces and see if that’s enough to get the job done. When I’m working on a longer piece that may require large-scale edits, like an ebook, then I find that a written outline is crucial to stay on point.

After finishing a rough draft, you can refer to the outline. Does each step logically lead to the next, culminating in a satisfying conclusion? If not, you can focus on that rough spot and see if it improves the work. The outline keeps your writing on point.

Avoid Perfection

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
– George S. Patton, WWII U.S. General

A lot of novice writers tend to get hung up on how their writing will be perceived by others. This creates a perfectionist mindset that can be debilitating to their output. They are, in essence, scared to “put themselves out there.” The truth is that as freelance writers, we survive by our output. Even the most carefully-crafted sentence may come off as overwrought to the client’s editor.

Over-preparation is another symptom of perfection. When we should be working, instead, we’re gathering more and more material until we feel “ready”. The only problem is that we’ll never be 100% ready.

Like the Patton quote above, time is of the essence. Perfection is an inhibitor to hitting your deadlines and finding more assignments. Instead, be willing to settle for “good enough”. Remember, you can always revise when you have the time. Chances are that the work you submit won’t be 100% error-free anyways. If there are unrecognizable grammatical errors, plagiarism, or misinformation, then yes, you have cause for concern. But word-choice, tone, rhythm—these are jobs for the editor.

Timing Yourself

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
– Peter Drucker, management author

Here’s a question to ask yourself:

Do you know how much time you spend on your assignments every week?

If you don’t know, try cataloguing your time over the course of an assignment. It is important to get your times down as precise as you can during “working hours” and “not-working hours”. Then consider how much you are being paid for the assignment—what does that work out to be per-hour?

It seems like simple math, but you’d be surprised how many freelancers don’t have a realistic expectation of their pay rate, ability, or the amount of time they actually spend on an assignment. Worse, it may be a bit shameful to admit that we are spending extra hours that are being lost to indulgences like checking social media or watching a cute cat video when we should be more disciplined. It turns out that a little math may be one of the best writing techniques out there…

For a more in-depth look at this subject, be sure to read our previous article, “How to Determine Your Rates as a Freelancer”.

Delegation

One of the best writing techniques you can learn is the art of delegation. By acting more as a boss or manager rather than a grunt worker, you can accomplish more work (and higher-paying work, too) with the assistance of other professionals.

For a more in-depth look into how to best use others to accomplish your goals, read “The Guide to Subcontracting” And if you want to go the extra mile to see how your own clients are delegating assignments to you, be sure to read our article, “The Proper Care and Feeding of Clients”.

Subconscious Writing

Of all the best writing techniques out there, hiring your subconscious thoughts to do the heavy lifting is one of my favorites. And it’s one that can make your job as a writer almost effortless. So, how do take advantage of your subconscious?

When I am given a new assignment I often feel like the assignment is constantly being worked on even when I’m not actively typing. First, I find that right after being given an assignment, I feel a compulsion to do monotonous work or take a break to pay attention to my health/well-being (i.e. go for a walk, stretch and work out, listen to an educational podcast, do household chores).

While my body is engaged in the activity, the assignment automatically comes back to me in various forms. Hints related to how the assignment will be laid out or anxieties about it are also noted. If I feel that a lot of anxiety lies in a particular part of the assignment, then that’s where most of my work should be focused on. Like the previous writing technique in this article, “Envisioning with an End in Mind”, if I can’t think my way through the assignment, it may be time to jot down my subconscious thoughts into an outline.

Learn from the Best

Practically every published writer has their own theories on the best techniques for writers. As a writer, it is helpful to learn from the experts in their own words. However, remember that it is ultimately up to you as the writer to use their advice as you see fit. Does writing at 7am everyday seem too extreme for you? Ignore that and focus on the best writing techniques those authors have laid out below (you can also learn more about the best writing techniques used by the pros throughout the FWU website).

  • For style, writers need to look no further that Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style
  • Prolific horror writer Stephen King has an entire book on his writing process called, appropriately enough, “On Writing”. As a contrast to this article’s content, King advocated that writers shouldn’t write from an outline, instead focusing on watching the story unravel in front of the writer as they type. This is something that FWU’s own PJ Aitken  (AKA David Jester) also advocates. But both note that this is something that gets easier the more you write and that outlines may be best for struggling, first-time authors.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, controversial author Henry Miller’s book “On Writing” shows his own approach to writing, jotting down his works in a disjointed Venn Diagram before beginning to write.

Now, is their advice contradictory? Of course, but that shows that even the experts don’t have a definitive answer to the best writing techniques for writers. However, they do all have one piece of advice in common: write, write, and don’t stop writing! No one ever got published by thinking about it!

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