Top 10 Ways to Spice Up Your Writing


In this latest instalment of my Expert Series I am delighted to welcome back Melissa Donovan with her recipe to help you to add some flavor to your writing.

Melissa who is a writer and website designer is the founder and editor of the excellent Writing Forward blog where you can find a wealth of creative writing tips and ideas.

While you are here be sure to also pay a visit to her first guest appearance with her popular Top 10 Reasons Your Blog Is Still A Sad Little Sideshow.

Top 10 Ways to Spice Up Your Writing

Have you ever wished your writing had more flavor? More pizzazz?

We’ve all seen the kind of writing that commands a reader’s attention. It has kick and punch, style and personality. It draws us in and doesn’t let us go, it haunts us, lingering in our minds long after we’ve read the last line.

It reeks of talent.

But talent is usually an illusion. Most writers don’t wake up one day and spontaneously produce distinguished work. It takes years of practice and study and a lifetime of good writing habits. The talented might get there faster and easier, but hard work will get you there too.

Whether you’re struggling with simple concepts like grammar and sentence structure or facing more advanced problems, like how to make your prose vivid and emotional, these ten tips show you how to make your writing more palatable.

1. Reading is Fundamental

If you don’t read well, you won’t write well. If you want to make your readers laugh, read funny books. If you want to make them cry, read sad stories. If you want to make them swoon over your word-craftiness, then read good literature and poetry. If you want to captivate readers and hold their imaginations hostage, read everything you can get your hands on, study it, and master the craft by reading with a writer’s eye.

2. Whet Your Palate

A lot of writers rail against poetry. It’s for the art crowd, the academics, the elite. But those are misconceived stereotypes. Plenty of poetry is raw and gritty. If you want to give your writing more zeal, poetry will do the trick. It will teach you tons of crafty techniques that make your writing leap off the page and into your readers hearts. Read it, study it, and write a bit of it.

3. Gather Your Ingredients

Good writing is concocted from a vast and diverse vocabulary. Start by reading a lot and make it a point to look up any words you don’t know. Plenty of dictionary sites and apps offer a word of the day. Do crossword puzzles and play Scrabble (and other word games). Or, be hardcore and just read the dictionary. And when you can’t find the perfect word, turn to the thesaurus (that’s what it’s there for).

4. Practice Makes Perfect

A respectable chef doesn’t serve a dish the first time he or she prepares it. A recipe must be perfected through practice, and the same it true for writing. Keep a journal. Do some writing exercises. Don’t be afraid to write poorly or to experiment and be willing to take risks. You’ll learn something from every writing session.

5. Let it Marinate

We live in world of sound bites and instant gratification. We’re all itching to click that publish button. But publishing without pause is bad practice. Have you ever noticed that a project you felt was brilliant after the first draft barely deserves a one-star rating when you revisit it after a few days?

When you let a piece rest before doing anything with it (including editing, submitting, and publishing), you can review it with a fresh and more objective perspective.

6. Add a Dash of Personality

When writers let personality come through in their writing, it’s called voice. Some writers have a uniquely consistent voice and we can identify their work just from its tone. Others are masters at taking on different voices for different projects. Experiment with letting your personality seep into your writing.

7. Sprinkle it with Edits

Can you imagine being served a half-baked cake at the world’s finest bakery? You bite into it expecting a sweet, heavenly pastry and instead you get a mouthful of batter. That’s what unedited writing tastes like. It’s bland, lumpy, and it leaves a bad taste in your readers mouths.

If you want to look like a real professional, edit and proofread everything: manuscripts, query letters, blog posts, emails, text messages, and even your social media updates.

8. Respect Your Guests

You’re invited to a dinner party, and when you arrive, the house is a mess. There are filthy clothes on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, and the host looks like a slob. That’s what it’s like when readers suffer through writing that is lacking proper grammar. You don’t have to become a professional linguist, but you should have firm grasp on the basic rules. Get a good grammar and style guide, and then use it diligently.

9. Experiment!

Meals would be dull if we had to eat the same foods every day. Mix it up. Try different forms. You might be certain that you want to write fiction, but dabbling in poetry, essay writing, and blogging might show you other avenues you’d like to pursue. Plus, your experience in one form will inform the others, making you an all-around stronger writer.

10.  Stay for Drinks

The writing community is a warm and supportive one. You can easily find other writers online or check local directories for writing groups and workshops in your area. Engaging with the writing community has infinite benefits and rewards. You can bounce ideas around with fellow writers, talk shop, and learn new concepts, and most importantly, you can share your work.

Giving and getting critiques is an excellent way to strengthen your writing. If you’re dedicated to building your skills, honing your craftsmanship, and developing habits that make you a better writer, you’ll soon find yourself writing prose that captivates readers. Your work will sizzle.

Many thanks to Melissa for her informative and entertaining article. Please do let her know what you think and add any tips you think could be added to the menu, your comments are always welcome!

About the Author: Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She is also the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas. Follow her blog on Facebook or connect with Melissa on Twitter or Google Plus.

Image credits
Jalepenos: Marcus Zorbis – Flickr

  • Fantastic article!  Many useful tips for all of us “aspiring” writers. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Your poetry point is great – and one that I’d forgotten over the years. I remember a Samuel Delaney quote, that good writers draw their weapons from the arsenal of poetry :)

    • Yes, poetry is definitely an arsenal. It’s a great way to master literary devices and learn how to use language in subtle, sublime ways :) 

  • I am excited to discover your blog on writing. I like the tip about pausing before you click the publish button.  I will hear your words echoing in my mind the next time I am tempted to publish hastily.

    • That’s great Magi! I find that many writers skip proofreading and editing, either because they are in a hurry or they don’t like revisions. Skipping these steps severely weakens a piece of writing and robs it of its true potential. Good luck! 

  • Irene DelRosso

    I have been planning to write forever and finally today I wrote four chapters of the book.  I know I will have to go back and add more details to reshape it like a sculpture does to the clay to give it life.  However, it is started and I am glad about that.

    • Wow, four chapters in one day! That’s impressive. Good luck with your book, Irene :) and keep at it! 

  • Interesting, I was going to start using cuss words and pictures for spice………..

    I have a long way to go on the writing side but one thing I am, is well read. If we are the sum of all parts then hopefully some of what I read is sticking in this thick noggin’ of mine.

    Thanks for sharing Tony, you are definitely a giver.

    • Cuss words and pictures can spice up one’s writing as long as they aren’t gratuitous. I actually think reading is the single best path to good writing, so you’re on the right track in my opinion :)

  • Great points: I love #1 in particular!  I’m a voracious reader; multiple books at any given time, across a wide variety of topics.  And, finding one’s own voice…essential.  Great post, Melissa: great host, Tony.  How have I not found you before?!  Cheers!  Kaarina

    • Thanks Kaarina. I couldn’t agree more. Reading is critical, and I do think that it’s the single biggest influencer for a writer. So keep reading and writing! 

  • My grateful thanks to Melissa for her excellent post and to all of you have been kind enough to stop by with your comments :-)

  • Hi Melissa,

    Sensational tips!

    Super analogy, especially the piece about experimenting. Innovate. Successful people continually innovate. Sure, they continue doing what works but they always seek that little extra twist which increases the effectiveness of their acts. 

    Thanks for sharing your insight with us!


    • Thanks Ryan. I’m glad you liked these tips. Keep writing! 

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    I have been writing for quite a long time now. Be it low key blogs or domestic publications- what i found out to be true was (as your point 6 says) Add a dash of personality. It really helps. Regular readers tend to look around for that you factor in your post. With every article you write, they tend to know you better while going through it. So, in order to keep your readership strong & entertained ,a bit of you in all your posts would be healthy. A really good post Melissa. :)

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  • Good article. I will add this to my list of “How to” tweets. Thank you for sharing with everyone.

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave your comment Edward, glad you enjoyed Melissa’s post :-)

  • Make your readers hungry for more content!

    • Hi Justin – good point! Thanks for stopping by with your comment :-)

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