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6 secret-weapons that can help you write better and more regularly.

Do you feel a novelist in you scraping to come out? Want to start a blog but donít think youíre writing is good enough? Are you going through the draft of your email again and again before hitting Send? Always dreamt of starting a Journal, but still havenít?

Here are 6 little ammunition packs, in which I have found inspiration, motivation, guidance, tips & tricks that has got me banging away on my keyboard like never before:

1. Copyblogger.com
This is one terrific blog. Why?
– Itís vast. Covers a wide range of writing topics be it making headlines, opening statements or creative writing or how to find writing time.
– The blog is updated regularly. Thereís a new resource to look forward to everyday.
– The posts are so simplified, itís a matter just following the steps presented in a, b c, format which make your writing better instantaneously.

Here are a few posts that got me hooked:
5 simple ways to open your blog post with a bang.
How to write Magnetic Headlines
The David Ogilvy Playbook for Business Blogging
How to write remarkably creative content

2. Writing Well by William Zinsser
Writing Well, a guide for non-fiction writing, boldly states on itís cover, ďMore than one million copies soldĒ. One doesnít need to turn too many pages to see why.

Zinsser implies that once you take his four articles of faith: clarity, simplicity, brevity and humanity to the extreme, youíll have a piece of writing that will pack a wallop! Key word here is extreme. Hence your writing has to be extremely clear, extremely simple, extremely brief while being human. Truly, if your writing is so easy to understand and it just cannot be made more clear, cannot be made more simple, having no verbiage and using words that bring amount a warm fuzzy human touch, you will certainly have a knockout article every time.

This philosophy is explained nicely, in depth, with many examples of good as well as poor writing throughout the book. And similar to Copyblogger, the ideas are presented so simply that not only is it quick and easy to implement, but they provide instant gratification too when you experience your writing improve immediately.

3. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamont
This is a lovely read. With unrestrained wit Anne journeys through her life; what made her a novelist and what does it take to become a writer. Although a specific guide for fiction writers, the chapters titled, Shitty First Drafts (in her words not mine), Perfectionism, Writerís Block inspire and motivate greatly to make this a worthy buy for all writers.

Hereís an excerpt:
ďVery few writers know what theyíre doing until theyíve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and find themselves bounding along like huskies in the snow. One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and tells himself nicely, ďItís not like you donít have choice, because you do – you can either type or kill yourself.Ē We all feel like we are pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose end up most natural and fluid.Ē ?

4. Gotham Writers Workshop
Thereís only so much guidance that a book can give. Sometimes itís sufficient and other times you need someone to hold your hand gently guide you all the way through. Gotham Writers Workshop offers classes on all types of writing from Poetry, to novel writing, to screen writing for movies. Although these classes are conducted in New York thereís an online version of this class too. Whatís also great is that Gotham limits the number of participants to each online class too, hence making it easier for the teacher to focus on individual students.

Just like in regular classes, you will get out from it, how much you put in. I have taken a couple of courses from Gotham Writers Workshop. The material is good, but itís the discipline training and tough-attitude building what was really valuable. When presented with a deadline, I let go of all excuses, Iím no longer tired, to hell with the muse, I have to finish this piece and somehow scrape the time and do it.

5. A Collins thesaurus
A Thesaurus is a writerís best friend. Iíve tried Rogets, Oxfords, Mac OS Xís inbuilt Thesaurus and the online www.thesaurus.com too. None of them have the depth and breadth that Collins does. It has come to my rescue many a times to help me say just the thing I wanted to, when other Thesaurusís have failed me.


6. Scrivener
Despite of having all the wonderful resources above, I donít think Iíd be writing regularly if it werenít for this magical writing software. Sadly only available for the Macintosh. Itís as if the through the keyboard this software connects to your writing soul and knows just the feature that you would want. Merlin Mann from 43 folders has done a terrific review of it. Here are the key features that have me in love with this software:

– Itís so much easier to keep my writing organised:

Unlike traditional word processing softwares, like MS Word (yeech!), A single file is not a single word document, which you have to keep organised within folders. Each Scrivener document is a project, within which you can have multiple folders and again within which multiple documents. Therefore I have opened a Scrivener project called Blog posts and here Iíve created 3 folders 1. Drafts, 2. Posted on Blog, 3. Archive and with which I have created separate documents for each. And now itís so easy for me to navigate from one document to another. While writing this blog post, suppose if I feel the need to see something I wrote in a earlier draft I just click on to that document in the binder and Iím there.

– Thereís a shortcut for everything.

Anything I want to do is only a couple of keystrokes away. If I want to move to another document in the same binder, I donít really need to use the mouse to do it. I hit Crtl+Option+Cmd+B to go to the binder. Use the arrow key to move to the document and ta da, Iím there! And itís not just moving between documents, thereís truly a shortcut for almost everything as you can see from the screenshot below. If you really spend as much time on the keyboard as I do, thatís a huge time saving. And for whatís thereís no shortcut thereís Quicksilver Menu command.

– The full screen option has to be tried to be savoured. This one option, really make you feel like wanting to write. It just screams, “Nobody bother me, canít you see Iím writing!”


Thereís the corkboard view, outline view, snapshot feature, it goes on and on, like I saidÖitís just magical.

Well, that’s about it. In conclusion, here’s the single one post that has had the greatest impact from Copyblogger on my writing.

2 Responses to “6 secret-weapons that can help you write better and more regularly.”

  1. Nikunj Dalal says:

    Hi Arif and Ali,

    I visit your blog from time to time and always find it interesting. Thanks for sharing information about writing resources. I have just embarked on a challenging writing project and I realize there is a lot to learn in this dimension.

  2. arif says:

    Hi Nikunj,

    Thanks for your comments and congratulations on taking up a new writing project. Believe me, You’re going to find it liberating, frustrating, enlightening all at once. You probably have had a glimpse of that already.

    Nikunj, I highly recommend these two resources on getting through any difficult and creative project like writing:
    1. The Dip by Seth Godin
    2. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

    Also, since you’re already on the web surfing, Click this link and then click on view flast presentation of War of Art. Very Inspiring and not long at all.

    Bye Nik!
    Arif

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