Writing is easy, writing well is difficult. It can get very frustrating. So here’s some simple advice to help you write and write well.
When staring at the blank page, break your time into two distinct phases: writing and editing. This will save you a whole world of pain later, and will guarantee that your writing is tighter.
Ernest Hemingway once said:
“I write one page of masterpiece to 91 pages of s***. I try to put the s*** in the wastebasket”
Hemingway is saying, quite simply: your good stuff is buried in the s***.
So what does this mean in practice?
Write like you just don’t care
Writing is where the magic happens. It’s when the ideas come out of your mind. The act of writing should be relaxed and raw. Forget about spellchecking, don’t worry about grammar, don’t discount ideas and words at this stage. Do not edit your work. No one on the planet will read your first draft, so just let it flow.
This is harder than it looks. If you find yourself looking back at what you’ve written, you’re editing. Stop. Continue forward and write.
This raw work is your 91 pages of s***. Now you need to find the masterpiece within – now you need to edit.
Edit out the nonsense, fine-tune your writing
Editing is when you shape this raw flow of information into something more beautiful and elegant. Your goal is to make your web page easy to read and your meaning unambiguous.
Quick editing tips:
- Replace long words with short ones — why ‘endeavour’ when you can ‘try’?
- If you can cut a word without losing meaning or style, cut it. Be ruthless.
- Keep sentences short. Long sentences are the enemy of clarity.
- Never write a paragraph when a sentence will do.
- Read your writing out loud and listen. You’ll hear when it’s not right.
Now, I’m not saying write 91 rubbish web pages to get one good one (This post was 600 words before I edited it down to about 361).
I’m saying write freely, take the time to edit and your writing will improve. That means an easier to read website with a much greater impact.