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  • katherinestano

Do's and Don'ts of Being a Better Writer

Updated: Jan 25

Okay, y'all. Writing is so subjective, but there are things we can all do to make our fans love us more. I've collected some do's and don'ts of being a better writer that I've learned from 20 years of copywriting. Enjoy this Kat compendium of sorts! (Apologies, as always, for the 3rd person reference!)

DO challenge yourself with projects outside of your comfort zone.

One of the great things about being a writer is that our physical comfort zones can literally be THE COUCH. And that's cool because wordsmiths step WAY out of their emotional comfort zones just to do their jobs. HOW are we NOT heroes?!

And because writing is such an act of vulnerability, it can be intimidating to try something new when we just somewhat mastered that other work of art that tested our sweet little spirits.

My gosh, WHAT will people THINK?

But, if we don't explore a different genre or fresh technique or a publication that we respect but assume they won't respect us (fair, fair––it happens) is that how we grow? Is that how we become better writers?

If you've always wanted to write a children's book, do your research and start the creation process.

Maybe a visual artist wants to collaborate with you. If it sounds fun and feasible, it might be a good fit.

Whatever it may be, it's good to keep yourself open to opportunities.

DON'T take on a project just because it feels like you should.

Maybe you're too busy. Or it doesn't sound very interesting. It's okay to say no to requests that don't align with your goals. (Omigosh, I sounded so corporate right there!)

You may have a specific niche or brand you're building. That's okay, too! Focus on what feels right.

One caveat: If you've already agreed to a project and especially if you've been paid to complete it, then you might want to finish that!

Kat Stano signing one of her children's books
Loving my nail color here! (So, DO get a mani before a signing!) Photo by one of my esteemed colleagues.

DO listen to thoughtful feedback, including praise and criticism.

It's tough when you put your whole heart into a piece of writing and you get unfavorable feedback that depletes your pride, hurts your ego, and crushes your soul. (Or maybe that only happens to me!)

But the truth is, they won't all be slam dunks. (Rare Stano sports metaphor sighting! Let's pause for a moment to take THAT in.)

ANYWAY, experienced editors and copy reviewers will help you improve your craft, which will lead to you being a better writer––so it's not a terrible idea to listen to what they have to say.

And if it feels unfair and your gut is telling you otherwise, then listen to what YOU have to say, too. Again, writing is subjective, so it's always important to trust your instincts.

DON'T despair when getting a rejection.

Here's the thing about writing: there will ALWAYS be rejections. I'm actually proud of some of my rejections! If they come with entertaining critiques...even better!

What I like to do with rejection is have it fuel me for my next piece. I also like to remember the writing that did get accepted. And, I like to remember everything I've overcome in life! We might as well throw that in!

Every no is a chance to grow. And, yes, I just rhymed there.

Thank the naysayers and show 'em what you got for next time.

DO write with your own brand of wit, cleverness, and personality.

A good way to study writing voice is to read a lot. Obviously, books are worth it. But you can study voice through funny emails, creative ads, music lyrics, social posts, and even clever TV writing. Yeah, a writer wrote that amazing dialogue! (And it's also a perfect excuse to binge watch everything!)

Practice your style with what first comes naturally to you, then continue to finesse until it's YOUR signature voice.

DON'T become too hard on yourself and think someone else's voice is smarter or more popular than yours.

I have SO MANY favorite writers. If I dwelled on everything they wrote that I didn't write, all hope would be lost. All hope, I say!

Instead, I stay inspired by their creativity and tell myself, "Thou shalt not compare yourself to those guys!" For even more on this whole comparison rigamarole, check out these tips.

This post features Amazon Associates affiliate marketing links, which is a fancy way of saying as an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases...which is another fancy way of saying I might get paid a small amount of money if you click on one of those links and make a purchase at no extra cost to you. Fun fact: These are all products I believe in.

DO write a crappy first draft.

Anne Lamott said this better in her book, "Bird by Bird." But yeah. She's a great writer and even Anne condones the crappy draft.

There are few drafts that wouldn't benefit from a healthy dose of revisions, wording changes, omissions, additions, and yada, yada, yada, whatever else makes it better.

Which means, if my math is mostly correct (but usually always never correct), that means the majority of first drafts aren't great. Maybe good. But maybe not GREAT.

Let this sink in for you. And when it does, you'll be able to loosen up a little, get all of the good and bad out on paper, and THEN think about the brilliance that comes next.

DON'T forget to edit and proofread your final draft.

Early in my writing journey, I submitted a screenplay to a very exciting TV writing apprenticeship and didn't know anyone who could proofread it, so I read it over myself (too quickly) and turned it in. Lo and behold, when I reread my script AFTER I submitted it, I misspelled the city in my story (among other things), which was actually my actual HOMETOWN (I was young and inexperienced and of course never considered there were OTHER towns in America.)

It partially wasn't my fault (but was mostly) because I had one of those monster PCs that probably wasn't updated (because I was tech clueless and still am) and it didn't spell-check words in all caps (screenplay formatting and all that stuff). As delightful as this story is, the POINT IS COMING. I should've read it over SLOWLY and OUT LOUD.

All that to say...

NOW is the time to pick apart your writing! Once the foundational content is captured, then you can splice and dice and julienne!

If you're a highly detailed human like I am, this might be the most invigorating writing stage for you.

And if you're about ready to submit your copy to whomever it needs to be submitted to, check it one last time by--–FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD AND DECENT––reading it or playing it OUT LOUD. That's how I find those hidden mistakes sneaking around the corners...and when I can say to those mistakes,

"It's been fun, darling, but ta-ta!"

DO find inspiration everywhere.

Family. Nature. Pop culture. Your dog. Your friend's dog.

Anything can inspire you.

Keep your senses sharp and attuned to the bizarre and beautiful things that may lead you to your next story.

And you'll probably notice things other writers don't notice. Use that unique, fresh perspective to your advantage!

This post features affiliate marketing links, which is a fancy way of saying I earn from qualifying purchases...which is another fancy way of saying I might get paid a small amount of money if you click on one of those links and make a purchase at no extra cost to you. Fun fact: These are all products I believe in.

DON'T underestimate the importance of research.

Deep-diving into a subject can make your essay, story, or blog post so much richer and more accurate. It also helps you to be received as a credible AND incredible writer. You'll stand out and, as creatives, we like this. We like this a lot!

Here are some examples of things you might research:

  • Character's profession

  • The region, city, or country in your story

  • Recipes

  • Plant species

  • Animal personalities

  • People personalities

  • Stats

  • Music and dance

  • Architecture

  • Interior design

  • Sports

  • Politics

  • Spirituality

  • Historical eras

  • Generational fashions

  • Hairstyles

  • Symbolism

  • Colloquialisms, dialects, and vernacular

Some avenues for research:

  • Magazine articles

  • In-person interviews

  • Fiction and non-fiction stories

  • Scientific studies

  • Blogs

  • Art, science, and historical museums

  • Cultural institutions

  • Events and parties

  • Animal rescues or farm sanctuaries

  • Nature explorations

  • Trying new foods

  • Speeches

  • Pinterest

  • People-watching

  • Taking a class or workshop

  • Music playlists

  • TVs and movies

  • Microfiche! (Bonus points for those who know what this is!)

DO love what you do...whether you write, paint, sing, or come up with the next greatest invention.

My best writing has been the writing that I enjoyed creating. It's been the writing that gave me freedom to be me and infuse my personality and voice. It's been the writing that let me play with language.

It's been the writing that's connected me with other kindred spirits.

Enjoy the process...even the growing pains.

DON'T worry if writing or creating isn't always exciting or glamorous.

I used to picture myself in a lone, oceanfront retreat atop the rocky cliffs, sitting on a wide veranda, and wistfully listening to the waves tumble and splash as I wrote my third bestselling novel. It felt so resplendent in my head!

But sometimes, writing is being holed up in a studio apartment with a dumpster-in-the-alley view, hunched over an overheated laptop, and spilling lukewarm coffee on your ratty pants while your dog howls at the neighbors.

It won't always be picturesque. And that's okay. And, even then, you'll still be on your way to your bestseller.

Hard work and faith kind of work like that.

What are some of your personal rules you use for being a better writer? Let me know in the comments!

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Jan 20

I like the last part. Being a writer/content creator isn't always glamarous. But I'm learning to push through the unmotivated moments. Or I'll take a break and give my mind a break, it helps to nurture creativity.

Jan 21
Replying to

Oh, gosh, I'm glad you could relate! Both of those strategies are really good. Sometimes, you've just got to say, "I'm doing this!" and keep going. Other times, a much-deserved break is needed for our emotional and mental health. For me, it just helps my brain to recharge and calm down a bit. (And I'll take any calm I can get!) Thank you so much for reading! Wishing you lots of luck in your writing and content creating!!


Jan 20

Great tips.

Jan 20
Replying to

Thank you so much! I appreciate you reading!


Unknown member
Jan 20

These were great tips! Thanks for sharing!!!

Jan 20
Replying to

Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I appreciate it!


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