Dying to finish your writing project but can't seem to get it right? Don't worry, we've all been there.
To make sure no one ends up like me — disheveled hair, coffee in hand —I've kindly compiled more than 20 of the best writing strategies to get you started on crafting compelling stories and becoming a wordsmith wonder. Of course, you're most welcome.
With practice and persistence, you'll be churning out Pulitzer-worthy prose before you know it. Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but you've got to start somewhere, right?
Read on to find out my best kept (open) secrets!
5 Prewriting Strategies You Can Try
There are several useful prewriting strategies to get your creative juices flowing before you start drafting. Here are five to try:
Make a list of anything and everything that comes to mind about your topic. Don't censor yourself — just write down words, phrases, or questions as they pop into your head. You can then review your list for connections or group related ideas.
Start with a central topic or idea, then connect related words or phrases around it. Look for links between clusters to find new angles or themes to explore. Clustering helps make new associations and sparks fresh ideas.
Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and just write whatever comes to mind about your topic without stopping. Let your thoughts flow freely without judging what you're writing. Freewriting often reveals ideas you didn't know you had and new ways of thinking about a subject.
Revisit and build on an earlier idea by repeating a word, phrase or line that strikes you as interesting or important. Follow where your thoughts lead from that starting point. Looping helps deepen your understanding and make new connections.
5. Asking Defining Questions
Come up with open-ended questions about your topic to uncover new layers of meaning or expose areas that need clarification. Defining questions stimulate critical thinking and prompt a thorough exploration of a subject.
Using several prewriting strategies together leads to even richer results, so give a few a try and discover which ones work best for you!
18 Proven Writing Strategies That Work
The above was a prewriting warmup. Now let's dive straight into some serious writing strategies you can employ:
1. Set Aside Time to Write Every Day
If you want to write like a pro, start by setting aside time each day dedicated only to writing. Even 30 minutes a day can make a big difference.
Establish a Consistent Routine
Having a regular writing schedule and sticking to it helps writers make time for writing. Try waking up 30 minutes early each day to write before work or school. Or schedule writing time each evening after dinner when the day's demands have eased up.
Whatever routine works for your lifestyle, stick to it and guard that time. Turn off distractions like phones and email. Over time, making writing a habit will help boost your productivity and motivation.
Start Small and Build Up
Don't feel overwhelmed by lofty writing goals. Start with whatever time you can commit to daily, even if it's just 15 or 20 minutes. You can always build up from there as writing becomes second nature. The important thing is making consistent progress, however small. Remember, each word and sentence moves you closer to your writing goals.
With regular practice, you'll gain momentum and improve your writing efficiency. Before you know it, you'll be achieving in 30 minutes what used to take an hour.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
To write effectively, you need to know your target audience. Who do you want to read your work? Are they teenagers, middle-aged professionals, or senior citizens?
Look at the age, gender, education level, and interests of your potential readers. For example, if you’re writing a blog about DIY home decor, your readers are probably homeowners, possibly with a college degree, and an interest in interior design.
Consider their values and expectations
Think about your readers’ beliefs and what motivates them. If you’re writing for new parents, focus on things like safety, educational value, and convenience. For outdoor enthusiasts, emphasize adventure, environment, and product quality.
Tailor your content and tone
Choose a style and voice suited to your audience. Use an informal, conversational tone for lifestyle blogs. For a business audience, a confident, professional tone is better. Mention life milestones and cultural references your readers will relate to. Refer to shared experiences to really connect.
Meet their needs
Provide information and solutions your audience finds useful and relevant. For students, discuss study strategies and skills. For retirees, address health, finance, and social topics. Give your readers what they want and your content will resonate.
3. Ask AI for Help
Hypotenuse AI is an AI content writing platform with an in-built document editor to help you write your first draft quickly. The AI tools can provide suggestions for headings, subheadings, key phrases and more to get you started on the right track. You can then edit the generated content to match your specific needs and voice.
Some of the AI features that can assist you include:
- Topic research: Helps you find relevant information and data related to your chosen topic.
- Outline generation: Creates a logical outline of subheadings based on your main focus.
- Keyword integration: Suggests relevant keywords and key phrases to incorporate into your text.
- Content completion: Provides options to complete sentences based on the context.
- Plagiarism check: Gives you peace of mind by checking if content is copied from anywhere else.
Using AI tools like Hypotenuse can be a big time-saver for content writers who aren't sure where to start.
4. Choose a Trending Writing Topic
Choosing a trending topic for your writing is a great way to increase views and shares. Trending topics are subjects that are currently popular and gaining a lot of interest and engagement. Some trending writing topics for 2024 include:
- Health and wellness: Mental health, nutrition, fitness, natural remedies, etc. People are focusing more on self-care and living healthy lifestyles.
- Technology and gadgets: Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, smart home devices, latest apps, etc. Technology is constantly evolving and improving our lives in new ways.
- Business and finance: Cryptocurrency, dropshipping, freelancing, budgeting, etc. Many are looking for ways to earn or manage money online.
- Travel and tourism: RV life, staycations, glamping, eco-travel destinations, etc. Although travel has slowed during the pandemic, interest in future travel adventures remains high.
When choosing a trending topic, also consider your interests and expertise. Select a subject you're passionate about for the most authentic and engaging content. And remember, popular topics are always changing, so keep an eye on current events and social media conversations to determine emerging trends in 2024 and beyond.
5. Always Outline Before You Write
Outlining is one of the most useful tools for organizing your thoughts before writing. An outline helps ensure your writing has a clear flow and structure. It's the skeleton that supports your work.
As any writer knows, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by a blank page. An outline gives you a roadmap to get started. It helps break down the writing process into manageable chunks so you can focus on one section at a time.
Outlining also allows you to logically organize your ideas. You can arrange major points in a coherent order and structure supporting evidence and examples. This helps avoid repetition and ensures each paragraph has a specific purpose that ties back to your key message.
An outline may seem tedious, but it will save you time in the long run. It's much easier to rearrange or reorganize an outline than it is to rewrite entire sections. Outlining gives you a chance to catch any flaws in logic or gaps in reasoning before you've invested time writing complete sentences and paragraphs.
6. Start With the Most Difficult Section
When you have a writing project to tackle, it's tempting to start with the easiest part to build up momentum. But that approach often backfires. You end up procrastinating on the hard stuff, and it hangs over you, sapping your energy and motivation.
A better strategy is to dive right into the most difficult section first. Do the part you're dreading, whether it's complicated research, a technical explanation, or addressing a sensitive issue. Getting it done will give you a huge sense of relief and make the rest of the writing feel easy in comparison.
Some tips for tackling the hard parts:
- Do your research. Make sure you understand the topic inside and out. Feeling confident in the material will make the writing go much more smoothly.
- Just start writing. Don't worry about how it sounds at first. Get your initial thoughts down and then revise and improve it. The important thing is to get something on the page.
- Ask for input if you need it. If there's a part you're having trouble with, ask a colleague or subject matter expert to review and provide feedback. Getting another viewpoint can help make the challenging parts easier to write.
By tackling the hardest parts of your writing first, you'll gain momentum to carry you through the rest of the project. With the difficult stuff out of the way, the writing will feel fun instead of frustrating.
7. Use Active Voice Instead of Passive
Want your writing to sound professional and persuasive? Use active voice instead of passive voice. With active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. In passive voice, the subject receives the action.
Active voice is direct, clear, and easy to read. It improves clarity and avoids unnecessary repetition. Active voice is more concise, direct, and stronger than passive voice.
Active: The marketing team launched the campaign.
Passive: The campaign was launched by the marketing team.
See the difference? In the active voice sentence, the marketing team (the subject) launched (the action) the campaign (the object). In the passive voice sentence, the campaign (now the subject) was launched (the action) by the marketing team (now the object).
Some other examples:
Active: I wrote the essay.
Passive: The essay was written by me.
Active: The instructor graded the assignments.
Passive: The assignments were graded by the instructor.
Use active voice in your writing and readers will find your message more engaging and compelling. Your writing will sound alive and energetic.
8. Focus on Writing a Strong Hook
One of the most important aspects of any piece of writing is the hook—those first few lines that grab the reader's attention and pull them into your work. Here are a few strategies to write a compelling hook:
Start with an interesting fact. Did you know that the average person has 70,000 thoughts per day? Starting your piece with an eye-opening fact is a great way to capture interest right from the get-go.
Share an anecdote. A short story or experience from your own life can draw readers in and make an emotional connection. For example, you might start with, "The first time I tried rock climbing, I froze in terror three-quarters of the way up the wall. As I hung there, clutching the handholds..."
Ask a rhetorical question. Posing an interesting question is a tried-and-true hook technique. For example, "Have you ever wondered why we seem to have an insatiable curiosity about the lives of strangers?" Or, "What would you do if you only had one month left to live?" Questions like these spark interest and keep people reading.
Use vivid language. Descriptive and evocative words can paint a compelling scene for the reader. For example, "The rusty hinges of the ancient oak door creaked as it slowly opened to reveal a long, winding staircase descending into inky blackness." Lively language brings your writing to life.
9. Address Your Reader
When writing to engage your readers, address them directly by using pronouns like “you.” Speaking to them in the second person helps to forge a connection and pull them into your writing.
For example, instead of this:
Readers should experiment with changing pronouns to notice how the tone of their writing shifts.
You should experiment with changing pronouns to notice how the tone of your writing shifts.
Addressing the reader directly is more concise and impactful. Rather than referring to “the reader” or “readers” in a detached manner, pronouns like “you” speak right to your audience and involve them in the experience.
Using “you” and “your” helps to:
- Draw the reader in by speaking directly to them
- Create a conversational tone
- Form a bond between the writer and reader
- Keep things clear and straightforward
Pay attention to the pronouns you're using and look for opportunities to swap in “you” or “your.” You'll notice how much more engaging your writing becomes, and so will your readers!
10. Break Down Tasks
When faced with a large or complex writing project, it can feel overwhelming not knowing where to start. The key is to break down the big task into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Focus on one section or chapter at a time, rather than viewing the project as a whole. This will make the work seem less daunting and much more achievable. Within each section, determine the main points or ideas you want to convey. Then break those down even further into an outline of paragraphs.
- Develop a timeline for completing each part to keep yourself accountable. Set deadlines for finishing sections and chapters to avoid delaying or procrastinating.
- Start with the sections or chapters you find most interesting or know the most about. This builds momentum to carry you into the more difficult parts. Save editing and revising for the end.
Whether you're writing a book, research paper, blog post or any other large project, dividing the work into bite-sized pieces is key to overcoming feeling overwhelmed. Focus on one part at a time, develop an outline, set deadlines and start with what you know best. Before you know it, you'll have made significant progress and gained confidence in your ability to complete the writing task.
11. Use the Inverted Pyramid Structure
The inverted pyramid presents information in descending order of importance. You start with the most critical details, then move on to supporting facts and additional context. This allows readers to get the gist even if they only read the first few paragraphs. If they keep reading, they get more background and depth.
- Put the most newsworthy information up top. Lead with the key highlights, conclusions or recommendations. Get to the point fast.
- Follow with the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where and why. Flesh out the essential details readers need to know.
- Add additional facts, stats, examples, quotes or anecdotes to provide context. Explain the significance and implications.
- Close with background information for full understanding. Discuss the history, related events or broader themes.
12. Vary Your Sentence Structure
Varying your sentence structure keeps readers engaged and your writing dynamic. Rather than using the same subject-verb-object sentence pattern repeatedly, mix it up with:
- Compound sentences that join two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction like “and” or “but.” For example, “I like coffee but I prefer tea.”
- Complex sentences with an independent and dependent clause. For instance, “When I have free time, I enjoy reading.” The dependent clause, “When I have free time,” relies on the independent clause, “I enjoy reading.”
- Modifiers like adverbs, adverb clauses or phrases placed at the beginning of sentences. For example, “With a passion for learning, she devoured each new book.” Or “After finishing her homework, Jill went outside to play.”
- Transitional words like “however,” “moreover,” “in addition,” or “for instance” to vary sentence structure. For example, “I love adventure. Moreover, I seek out new experiences whenever possible.”
- Prepositional phrases like “in the morning” or “under the bed” as sentence starters. For example, “In the early morning, the sun peeked through the curtains.”
- Infinitive phrases using “to” such as “To improve quickly, practice every day.”
Readers can get bored with repetitive sentence structure, so aim to incorporate different patterns for emphasis and to keep your readers interested. Mixing it up with compound, complex, and modified sentences adds flow and rhythm to your writing.
13. Don't Write Continuously Without a Break
When you’re on a roll with your writing, it can be tempting to just power through without stopping. (That's literally me right now.) However, taking regular breaks is one of the best strategies to recharge and renew your mental focus.
Without breaks, your writing may start to become repetitive, lack coherence, or lose steam. Stepping away from your work for even just a few minutes allows your mind to rest, giving you a fresh perspective when you resume writing.
Try setting a timer to take a quick walk around the room, stretch, or make a snack. Do some light exercise like yoga or jumping jacks. Changing your environment can do wonders for your creativity and concentration.
When you return to your writing, you'll likely find that solutions to any roadblocks have emerged, new ideas have surfaced, or a clear path forward reveals itself. You'll feel reinvigorated and better able to compose high-quality work.
In short, don't underestimate the power of recharging. Build in frequent breaks to renew your mental energy and keep your writing sharp, focused and flowing.
14. Cut Unnecessary Words
Cutting unnecessary words from your writing makes it stronger and more concise. Remove:
- Fillers: Words like “really,” “very,” “basically,” “essentially,” etc. Add nothing to your meaning.
- Redundant phrases: “end result,” “unexpected surprise,” “new initiative.” One word will do.
- Excess adjectives and adverbs: Use strong verbs and nouns instead. “Walked quickly” becomes “hurried.” “Very unique” is just “unique.”
- Wordy phrases: “due to the fact that” becomes “because.” “in spite of the fact that” becomes “although.” Tighten your writing.
When editing your work, look for sentences with extra words that can be trimmed without changing the meaning. Aim to remove at least 10-20% of the words from your first draft. Your writing will be punchier, clearer and more engaging as a result.
15. Be Authentic
To write authentically, choose topics and forms of media that genuinely interest you. Write about experiences you find personally meaningful.
Share Your Voice
Let your unique personality shine through. Discuss things that excite or frustrate you in an honest, candid way. Your passion will come through to readers.
Some ways to achieve an authentic voice:
- Use contractions like "don't" and "can't"
- Write in an informal, conversational tone
- Share personal stories and examples from your own life
- Use humor and wit when appropriate
- Admit what you don't fully understand
The most compelling writing taps into emotions and opinions. Don’t be afraid to express how you truly feel about a subject. Your authenticity will resonate with readers and keep them engaged.
Of course, be mindful of your audience and purpose. While authenticity is key, you still need to craft your message to suit the particular readers and goals for any given piece of writing.
16. Read Your Work Out Loud
One of the most effective ways to improve your writing is to read your work aloud. Hearing the rhythm and flow of your sentences helps you identify mistakes in grammar, structure, flow, and rhythm.
When you read aloud:
- Listen for sentences that sound awkward or choppy. Rework them to improve the flow and transition between ideas.
- Notice any words or phrases that are repeated too often. Find synonyms or rephrase to avoid repetition.
- Check that your tone and point of view are consistent throughout. Reading aloud helps ensure your message is coherent and compelling for the reader.
- Double check for any grammar, spelling or punctuation errors. It's easy to miss small mistakes when reading silently, but reading aloud highlights them.
- Consider if any sentences are too long or convoluted. Short, concise sentences are easiest to understand and have the most impact. Break up any lengthy sentences.
- Determine if key terms or phrases could be expanded upon or explained in more depth. Flesh out important ideas and add examples or anecdotes to bring your writing to life.
- Check that the overall flow and logic of your work is solid. Smooth out any jagged transitions and make sure your key points build upon each other in a clear progression.
Reading aloud is a simple but highly useful tactic to strengthen your writing and connect with readers!
17. Use Strong Verbs and Vivid Descriptions
Using vivid language in your writing helps bring it to life for readers. Employing strong verbs and descriptive words engages the senses and creates a visual experience.
Instead of weak verbs like “walked” or “said,” use active verbs that demonstrate the action, like “stormed” or “yelled.” For example, rather than “she went into the old house,” try “she crept into the abandoned house.” Readers can imagine the character tentatively entering the building.
Use adjectives and adverbs to add detail. For instance, instead of “the ocean,” describe it as “the churning, blue ocean.” Rather than “he ate lunch,” write “he devoured the delicious lunch.” Describe smells (“the acrid smoke”), textures (“the coarse sand”), sounds (“the deafening roar”), and tastes (“the bittersweet chocolate”) to help the reader experience the scene.
A few vivid verbs and adjectives can transform generic sentences into concrete images. Compare:
A1: The old man walked down the street.
A2: The hobbled old man hiked down the cracked sidewalk.
B1: I saw a bird in the tree.
B2: A crimson cardinal flitted through the gnarled oak tree.
With senses engaged, readers feel immersed in the narrative. Using expressive and emotive language in your writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, helps connect with your audience. So liberally sprinkle in those strong verbs and vivid descriptions!
18. Proofread, Revise, and Edit
Proofreading your writing is essential to producing high-quality work. As the final stage in the writing process, proofreading focuses on catching surface-level errors that slip through the cracks during drafting and revising.
To effectively proofread your own writing:
Check for consistency. Double check that the details in your writing, such as dates, names, statistics, and facts, are consistent throughout. Inconsistent details damage your credibility and confuse the reader.
Look for common errors. Carefully review for misspellings, grammar issues, punctuation problems, and word choice errors. Use spell check and grammar check tools, but don’t rely on them entirely. They won’t catch every mistake.
Get feedback (if possible). Ask a friend or colleague to review your work and provide constructive criticism. Fresh eyes may spot areas for improvement you haven’t considered.
With mindful, deliberate proofreading using these techniques, you'll produce writing that is clear, concise, and error-free. Constant practice and persistence will make proofreading second nature, allowing you to write like a pro in no time.
You now have over 20 proven writing strategies in your toolkit to unleash your inner writer. Start with the ones you're most comfortable with first — you don't have to do them all at once!
Progress comes from baby steps, and your first step is to take a well deserved break.