The term “best practice” has become a bit of a buzzword. I hear it a lot at the health system where I work as a writer and editor. As I understand it, a best practice is a method that consistently shows superior results. Best practices become the standard for the way we do our work.
I’d like to suggest three simple best writing practices to help you become a stronger writer today (yes, this very day!)
Try these best practices or the “3 Rs”:
Relax. (Yes, you read that right!) Guess I should be more specific. By relax, I mean, remember that the reason we write that first draft is so we’ll have something to re-write. Take some pressure off yourself. Download the thoughts from your head to your keyboard and then you can play with them. Before they can be perfect or precise, they simply need to be.
Reduce your word count by five percent. Words are powerful, but they don’t have to be precious. Choppity-chop the excess. (Let me pause right now to apologize. I’m sorry I didn’t warn you there would be math. But if I had, would you still be reading this? Here’s how to easily calculate 5%–let’s say you’ve written a fresh page of 246 words. Look at those first two numbers–24–that’s 10%. Now, what’s half of 24? That’s right, 12 (or 5%). See how easy? So, you’d need to delete 12 words. The calculation is the easy part. Taking out the excess words–that’s the tricky part.) When you manage to make your manuscript lean, your writing is tighter and brighter, not just lighter. Pardon the sappy rhymes, won’t you? And honestly, cutting words can be a fun challenge. Why, you won’t even miss the words once they’re
Read your work out loud. And I’m not just talking to picture book authors here. Whatever your genre, make it a practice to read your writing out loud. Yes, your family or office mates will think it’s weird at first, but they’ll get over it. When you “hear” your work, you not only catch grammatical glitches or overused adjectives, you can listen to the rhythm of your words. If you’ve never tried this before, try it today.
Maybe the “best” best writing practice is practicing. So, relax. Fill that page. Lop off five percent. Read it out loud. And try again tomorrow.
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ~ W. Somerset Maugham