Media Shower writer Elizabeth Crum is well-known for her work in travel, education, and food blogging.

The greatest paper I ever wrote was for a first-year English class in college. We were instructed to pick a random subject, bounded only by our personal interests, and write a 2,000-word research paper on that subject.

What. The. Hell?

I was completely at a loss. How do I go from vague, directionless directions to a full-blown research paper with an annotated bibliography?

The lessons I learned from slogging through this first-year college course will help any writer improve their work. Whether it’s a research paper, a blog post, a product review, a novel or a short story, these tips will keep you on track and writing to the best of your ability.

1. Narrow Your Focus, in your Own Interest

This may sound counterintuitive, but bear with me. The broader your subject, the more room there is for your reader to get lost. Therefore, you must set boundaries. This is a simple rule worth remembering. All I knew when I started was that I would like to write about female authors. This narrowed down to 18th-century female authors. And this further narrowed to 18th-century female author’s writing under male pseudonyms. And voila! We have narrowed a topic from vague to specific by following our interests. When dealing with an all-encompassing topic, break it down into categories that are easier for your readers to identify with and understand.

2: Write What You Know … Or Want to Know!


It might look intimidating, but trust me; research can make or break your writing.

What is the most repeated writing advice that new writers receive?

“Write what you know.”

This may be true to a degree, but I’ve added my own caveat; if you can’t write about what you know, write about what you’d LIKE to know. In other words, if you don’t know, LEARN! To the best of your ability, research and absorb your topic until you can name names, date dates and place people at the drop of a hat.

This cannot be stressed enough: Research. Is. Everything.

If your sources are incorrect, or even in question, your entire reputation as a writer is now compromised. It took me hours and hours on Google Scholar to come across wonderful, obscure papers like Daughters of Decadence by Elaine Showalter. But the credible content was totally worth it. Put time into your research, and it will pay you back tenfold by establishing you as a reputable writer with solid research abilities.

3. Make Time!


What’s that saying? Oh, yeah. Time waits for no man, especially not the writer.

Trust me, I know the drill: laundry, kids, dinner, work, husband, mom etc … It’s easy to say that you don’t have time. Here’s what nobody tells you when you want to be a writer: you have to make the time!

I know it’s hard to ignore the laundry piling up, and the work demands, and the need to grocery shop. And obviously, some things cannot be ignored. However, writing anything noticeable and successful requires time put in. So, as hard as it is, make time to write. 10 minutes in the morning, a half hour once the kids are asleep; whatever works for you, fit it in. Time in and of itself does not really exist; therefore it must be created. By you. So make the time to write, and your writing will reward you by improving itself.

4. Get in the Flow

I know, it sounds very transcendent. But anyone who enjoys writing will be able to tell you about ‘The Writing State’. I simply call it my Flow.

When I am writing, and I know what I’m writing about, and I have made time to write, I am flowing. There’s no thinking, no planning, no doing anything really; except writing. All of the knowledge and passion you have brought to the table are now flowing onto the page. And this, without question, is the magic inherent in the writing process. Creativity fuels the engine, with the added ingredients of information and necessary space. If you didn’t enjoy writing the paragraph you just wrote, not even a little bit, stop. Go back through the steps and find your speed bump. Anything written without creative involvement will be dead in the water. I repeat: find your flow and know that you have hit the sweet spot.

5. Edit, Edit Edit!

Editing just sounds boring, and long. However, this depends on your own perspective. It can be a fun, exciting process if done correctly. The number one thing to keep in mind is that there are two separate parts to the editing process: mechanical editing and ethereal editing.

Mechanical editing involved asking yourself “Is this correct grammar/punctuation?” or “Does this sentence sound right?”

Ethereal editing asks “How are my ideas manifesting?” or “Is there a clear thesis/message within my writing?”

One deals with the concrete and fixed rules of writing and language. The other handles delicate perceptions and subtle messages within the writing itself. Using this dual approach to editing, it will become a challenge and pleasure unto itself; the process of making your own writing better will never fail to satisfy.

man at work

The editing process with improve your final draft and boost your own writing confidence.

While not inclusive to everyone, I hope these tips will help you in your future endeavors. I learned the hard way, and I want to share my experiences so that you don’t have to. Click here for more success stories and learning opportunities.