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One Surefire Way to Improve Your Writing

Staring at a blank sheet of paper or Word document as you start an article, a blog post or  your book is a scary thing. It stops the flow of creativity in even the most talented writer. As for newcomers to the process, it can kill the dream at the start.

Published writers, editors and publishers offer much advice about what you should do before you write your book. Most say you should create an outline or put pressure on yourself by announcing your plan to the world.

One thing that is extremely helpful to authors as they are writing their book is market research. You may have heard this term used as it relates to consumer research for marketing services and products, but it is also a very relevant practice for writers, too!

One of the best kind of “market research” is studying an author you admire.

There are three good reasons for this.

1. Inspiration

The mere fact that a favorite author has successfully shared her ideas in print is encouraging, especially at the start when your first words seem out of reach. Observing the author use words you can understand to unfold concepts before your very eyes will give you encouragement and often call forth your ideas that until now were too shy to reveal themselves.

2. Guidance

It is very instructive to turn an analytical eye to the work of an admired author or even the top authors in your genre, whether you admire them or not. You can learn about writing, structuring and publishing all in one place.

First, pay attention to how you approach the book as a reader: check out the title, author’s name, quick scan of front cover, flip over to back cover looking for proof that this book will keep the promise of its title and solve your problem or fill your need.

Second, go inside the book to see how the author delivers on his promise. How does he begin, develop and end the chapters? Is the book light-hearted, humorous or serious, with lessons and activities? Are there quotes, stories, illustrations, and if so, do they add to the message? Are there examples to make key points clear or does the author pose questions and leave you to reflect?

3. Direction

After you have read, examined and analyzed the book, you will begin to see gaps in what and how the author wrote his book and how you want to write yours.

You will notice omissions, ideas she didn’t cover or information glazed over that you’d like to explain in more depth in your book.

You will begin to see missing evidence you would set forth to support ideas in your book that somehow the author in question neglected.

In this phase you will begin to see your book emerge as distinctive. Even though it may be on the same or similar topic or style and isn’t even written yet, you will begin to see the gap your book will fill in the literature.

You will be able to visualize the books currently on the bookstore shelf moving closer together making just enough space on the shelf for your upcoming book to join them.

There are two more very practical reasons to study another author or authors in your genre:

  1. You will be able to return to them when your confidence wanes along the way (and it will).
  2. If you plan to approach a literary agent or submit directly to a traditional publisher, this will be a required part of your proposal, without which they will not even consider your manuscript.

Using these techniques and tips will keep you moving forward on your path to writing your articles, blog posts or your own book. Start putting them into action today!

22 Ways to Push Past Writer's Block to Writer's Brilliance

At some time every writer hits a block, a slump or a downright drought. This infographic that I learned about from Michelle Shaeffer, who got it from Copyblogger.com (who encourages us to share it,) is a perfect variation of Tip#1. Which of these have you used successfully? Can you add more great ways to create great content to the list?22 Ways to Create Compelling Content - Infographic
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

10 Ways to Unclog Your Writing Drain2

All writers hit a block, a period of congestion, a time when the ideas seem to dry up. When that happens, it’s important to get busy doing something about it. Here are 10 ways to unclog your writing drain and get your creative juices flowing again.

1. Change your location

If you’ve been writing in the living room, get up and relocate to another room. You may even need to leave your house and go to a library or bookstore or park.

2. Change your activity

Go check on your goldfish, water the backyard or sort your sock drawer. Okay, don’t like these? You pick another activity then.

3. Write anything. “I can’t think of anything to write.”

After writing “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over, your brain will insist on you writing something else.

4. Switch writing tools.

If you’ve been writing on the computer, switch to writing on paper with a pen or pencil or crayon.

5. Take a nap.

Refresh your mind and body with a nap break. It can work wonders.

6. Read a book

Catch up where you left off in your favorite book. It takes your mind away long enough for it to regroup.

7. Go out for a walk or exercise.

Participate in one of the writing challenges in November.

8. Write Nonfiction in November
Get encouragement, post your progress and participate on their Facebook page.

9. National Novel Writing Month
Thirty days and nights of literary abandon.

10. National Blog Posting Month
Grab the blogroll, a badge and follow the daily prompts.

So what are you waiting for?