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exclamation-point-64050_960_720Drills aren’t just for military personnel. In fact, just about anyone can benefit from training exercises—writers included. Here are seven simple drills that can boost your writing skills and make you better at your craft. Try one a day this week, and see how they improve your clarity, creativity, and style.

Take a quiz. On something writing related, like spelling, grammar, or vocabulary. Quizzes can be found in magazines or online and can help refresh your memory and expand your writing knowledge. Plus, they’re fun to do. You might be surprised at how much you know—or don’t know.

Rewrite a sentence. Pick a sentence, preferably a complex one, from a favorite book or a magazine or newspaper article. Now rewrite the sentence to make it stronger, clearer, and more readable. Or, using your unique style, revise the sentence to reflect a different tone.

Read content. From pamphlets to signage to blog posts, content comes in all forms, and taking notice of it can help you become a better writer—especially when you analyze it, edit it in your head, and ask yourself what works about it and what doesn’t.

Study a word. Is there a word you’ve run across lately that intrigues you? Look it up, then study its definitions and origin. Use it in a sentence or in speech. Get comfortable with the word and incorporate it into your writing and vocabulary.

Write a filler. You know those short, front-of -book pieces in magazines, like a list of tips, a simple recipe, or a brief how-to? They're easy to create and a great way to learn how to cut words and write short. Give one a try.

Review punctuation rules. Punctuation is often underused, overused, or misused. Review the rules of punctuation from your favorite style book and experiment with using each mark. Keep in mind that rules are meant to be guidelines, not set in stone.

Write an acrostic. Acrostic poems aren’t just fun to write; they exercise the brain. The best part is, you don’t have to be a poet to write an acrostic. Need some help getting started? Check out these tips on writing an acrostic poem.

Do you have any other drills that help boost your writing skills? Please share your thoughts!

 

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holiday ornamentWith the holidays fast approaching, you might be thinking about writing a holiday story. What’s great about holiday stories is that they aren’t just for kids. Adults love to read stories with a holiday theme, too. But no matter who your target audience, there are a few things to keep in mind when writing a holiday story.

First and foremost, a good story is key. The holiday element matters, of course, but the characters, plot, and writing style matter more. Like any story, a holiday story that doesn’t engage and satisfy the reader—child or adult—won’t be appealing and won’t sell.

Here are some other tips for writing a holiday story:

  • Choose a fresh twist on a holiday theme; overdone holiday stories are just that, overdone.
  • Be respectful of cultural diversity and the many ways people celebrate holidays.
  • Depending on the publication, be cautious about involving religion or overemphasizing it.
  • Aim to uplift, inspire, and entertain the reader, and include humor if possible.
  • For children’s stories, add a creative activity, such as a holiday game, craft, or recipe.
  • Submit a holiday story well in advance of the holiday (check writer’s guidelines for exact deadlines).

Make this season merry and bright, and write a holiday story. Whether you submit it now or next season or just share it with the family, you can’t go wrong. Everyone likes this festive time of year, not to mention a good holiday read.

Image by Domaniqs