How Do You Write?

Depending on one’s perspective, the “how” part of writing is either self-evident or an endless mystery. I offer a few initial thoughts on the topic of “how to write.”

First is tools.

  • Nowadays, most writers use a computer when writing. It is practical, allows for easy edits, and produces digital output for saving, sharing, or submitting.
  • Some writers, who long ago honed their craft using a typewriter, persist in doing so today.
  • Still others write longhand, either in a special notebook or tablet or alternately on any accessible piece of paper. Some prefer to use a pen; others, a pencil.

Second is mode. That may sound funny, but here is what I mean:

  • Some carefully construct a sentence in their mind, marinating it and mulling it over until it is perfect. Then they write it. It is done.
  • Others write whatever comes to mind as quickly as possible; it is a “stream of consciousness,” a random free-flow of ideas and words. Editing and fine-tuning will happen later.
  • These are extreme examples, but most writers gravitate towards one or the other. The point is to do what seems natural and works – not what someone else does or says.

Third is process. Here are some examples:

  • Some sit in front of a blank computer screen (or sheet of paper) until they know what to write. If you’ve ever read (or wrote) a piece that starts out, “As I sit down to write…” you know what I mean.
  • Others contemplate ideas and concepts as they go about their daily life. The topic gels in their mind and when they begin to write, they are good to go.
  • Still others await inspiration. Once it hits, they begin writing immediately. Often they will intentionally engage in a mindless activity such as going for a walk or washing the dishes to spur inspiration.

(For me, my tool is a computer; my mode is to edit as I write; and my process is to mull over ideas first and then to write. This is my typical approach. However, at one time or another, I have used each item mentioned.)

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Eleven Writing Exercises to Sharpen Your Writing

Like physical exercises, which are beneficial for your body, writing exercises are beneficial for developing your skill as a writer. While exercise is seldom pleasant, it is a wise and worthy pursuit. Here are some exercises to consider in developing your craft as a wordsmith:

  1. Revise something you wrote to hit a specific word count. This could be to expand it or condense it. Both are helpful skills to have. Editors appreciate it when you can hit a target length.
  2. Completely rewrite something without referring to the original. Then compare the two. Note what is the same, what is different, and what is better. Now merge the two into a third — and hopefully superior version.
  3. Taking a 1,200-word article or essay that you wrote, condense it into a 600-word version. Then revise it to a 300-word blog post. Finally, turn it into a 140-character tweet.
  4. Do the reverse, taking someone else’s tweet, expanding on the concept (don’t plagiarize) to make a blog post. Then expand it further to become an article, essay, or short story.
  5. Write a short story using only one-syllable words (or any other creative restriction you can concoct).
  6. Write a 26-sentence story where each sentence starts with a successive letter of the alphabet, A through Z.
  7. Subscribe to A Word A Day. Each weekday they will email you a unique or interesting word. Use that word in conversation or writing that day.
  8. Rewrite something you wrote, adding alliteration to the text.
  9. Write metered poetry, song lyrics, or haiku. All of these force writers to fit cogent ideas into a certain rhythm or number of syllables.
  10. Often writing magazines will suggest a writing exercise. These add variation to your writing workouts. Some also have contests. Even if you’re not ready to submit your work, it is great practice.
  11. Come up with an interesting or catchy title — now write to that title. The same can be done writing to reach a predetermined, pithy conclusion.

Personally, I have done most of these at one time or another. What I find most helpful are those that affect word count, helping me to be more concise or more inclusive in what I write. I’m also a big fan of alliteration, but need to guard against going overboard with it.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Five Ideas of What to Write

Hopefully, you’ve given some thought as when is the best time to write, as well as where is the best place to write. Even if these decisions are works in progress, needing to be fine-tuned, you need to move on.

Now we get to the question of what to write. Although, it may seem a nonsensical query; for some, especially those just starting out, it is not. Here are some ideas:

  • If you have a project, you need to be working on it. This is an obvious answer — if you have a project.
  • Work on a potential project, something that could turn into a project. That is, work on an article or a book that you could sell in the future. Write a query letter or proposal for this project.

However, if you’re just starting out, you likely need to develop and hone your writing skills before seriously embarking on a project. So, here are some more ideas:

  • Blogging is a great way to release creative ideas and develop a writing style. (I don’t put Facebook in this category, though I do know some who compose intriguing and well-written posts. I do not recommend journaling or keeping a diary as worthy writing exercises either; they are too informal, introspective, and narcissist — however, they may provide useful fodder for a future memoir.)
  • Write book or movie reviews. Work on developing a reviewer style and on being concise, fair, and helpful. Avoid the mistake of many professional reviewers — being unnecessarily critical or writing a review merely to call attention to your skill as a writer.
  • Writing exercises are other worthy considerations. “Exercising” will get you in the habit of writing and provide opportunities to develop your skills. Here are some ideas for writing exercises.

(I am currently working on a project — my dissertation — which is also a potential project, a future book.  I usually blog one day a week and also write reviews — mostly book reviews — which I hope to soon post on my Website.)

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Welcome to Byline by Peter DeHaan

Byline is a blog about writing. The purpose is to write about writing, to share what I know about the craft and what I am still learning.

I have been writing for 30 years in conjunction with my various vocations, so in one sense I am a seasoned writer, with hundreds of published articles to my credit — and more than a dozen websites. I have also been blogging for three years, with hundreds of posts. One of my blogs is The Musings of Peter DeHaan, a blog “sharing a slice of life.”

On the other hand, I have only recently become interested in writing books. So in this sense, I am a newbie, learning the ropes of writing longer works. I have not published a book and, in fact, I am yet to write one — though I am overflowing with ideas. (I have written two theses and am working on a second dissertation — but do they count?)

A noteworthy item is that I’ve spent the last nine years as a magazine publisher, so I get the chance to read a lot of articles and press releases. Some of the submissions are good, most are okay, and occasionally a few are just plan awful.

That’s who I am and what this blog will cover. If you are a writer, or interested in writing, I hope that Byline will help you with your journey — it will help me on mine.

We will start our exciting journey with a series of posts of “Writing Tips.”

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Discussing the art of writing and the business of publishing