This morning I happened upon a rather interesting article on TIME‘s website about writing tips from Associate Supreme Court Justice, Elena Kagan. I clicked on the article because the headline intrigued me, but what I found inside the article set my writing nerd afire. Her tips were given during an interview geared towards legal writing, but proved the very thing I try to emphasis on this blog. Writing is universal. No better where you are from, what job title is assigned to your name, or what genre or type of writing you practice we can all learn from and relate to each other. Writing is one of those rare things that has the power to bring people together- naturally. Even though Elena and I have taken completely different paths in life, I could relate to absolutely everything she had to say. Her advice will surely resonate with writers everywhere.
- Be a good reader.
In order to truly be a good writer, you need to read. Read to research and educate yourself. It’s good to read a lot within the genre you want to write in- see how other authors do it, what works and what doesn’t. But also read outside your genre, be versatile. You never know what you will learn or what new insights you will gain from stepping out of your comfort zone.
2. Write so normal people can understand you.
Remember that the people who are going to be reading your book are just like you. There’s no need impress with super fancy words or elaborated sentences. Write like you are talking to your best friend. The more accessible your writing is, the more people it will reach. People don’t want to feel like they need to work while reading for pleasure, we do enough work in our daily lives already.
3. Don’t dumb yourself down too much.
Writing is an art. We want to be creative and unique with it. Just because it’s simple, casual writing doesn’t mean it can’t be deep and profound. The best thing is to know your audience. Assume that most people who pick up your book are average readers and will be able to sift through whatever you throw at them.
4. Have fun!
This one is my favorite and well… self-explanatory. Just let you creative juices flow, let loose, and write. Let all your worries fade for a few hours. That’s when your best writing comes to life.
5. Explain your reasoning.
This one is the most geared towards legal writing, but all writers could learn from this. Paint a vivid picture of your story, your characters, your world- it’s laws, it’s culture, it’s traditions. Don’t leave any detail untouched. The smallest thing, maybe the stop signs are green instead of red or maybe children are able to drive at age thirteen, can make the reader feel like they truly understand what you are writing. You want them to be connected to your story and not left searching for the missing puzzle pieces.
6. Get feedback from the people you trust.
This is extremely important. You need other people to read your writing before you publish it. It doesn’t need to be a professional editor, but you need another set of eyes. Eventually, your own eyes become immune to the errors on the page in front of them and start to lose focus on areas that could use improvement. The important part is to get someone you trust. Someone who is going to give their honest opinion. Giving your work to someone who is going to do nothing but praise it, isn’t going to help. But giving it to someone who is going to purposefully rip it to shreds isn’t going to be productive either.