A Couple Tips On How to Write More Engagingly

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
A Couple Tips On How to Write More Engagingly
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


Here are some fast and dirty writing tips today that’s going to make your writing more intense. Ready?


Think about your tenses

What’s that mean? It means don’t be writing like things are happening now and then shift over to writing like things were happening in the past. If you want the most immediate writing experience, write in the present tense. If you want a little padding? Write it in the past tense.

Here’s a quick example:

I lost feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run on Friday. I thought I might have been having a stroke.

That’s in the past tense, right? We read this, notice it’s in the first person and figure that the narrator has survived because she’s telling us about this after-the-fact.

Try it out in the present tense:

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

It’s more intense, right?

Let’s make that phrase even more intense.

Take out the distancing words.

In first person especially, it’s really hard to get away from a lot of looking and knowing and words that pull us out of the moment and the immediacy of the character’s experience.

Distancing language tends to be the words like ‘seem,’ and ‘look,’ and ‘heard,’ and ‘know.’ When I revise, I think of these words as placeholders for where I can go back and dig in more deeply in certain places.

So, let’s take that sentence again in the present tense again and make it more immediate.

The original

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

Change that up and it looks like:

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot numbs first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts going numb, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

You’re in there a bit more with that character now right. Is she having a stroke? What the heck is she running for? SHE IS BROKEN!

Try not to use the same word too many times too closely together.

In the example above I deliberately use the word ‘numb’ and ‘my left’ over and over again. I’m cool with the repetition of ‘my left,’ but not so much with the numb. There are better, sexier words to mix in there and grab the reader’s attention. Let’s try.

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot disappears first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts to tingle, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

Switch up your sentence structures.

This just means don’t have all your sentences always be the same lengths. If you are woman who uses a lot of clauses, try to add a few shorter sentences in there. And vice versa. Simple sentences and compound/complex sentences can be your friends. The same goes for paragraphs. Uniformity makes a lot of readers bored and they start to skim.

Let’s take that example again and mix it up more.

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot disappears first. My left hand and arm go next. When the left side of my mouth starts to tingle, I gasp. A stroke. I’m having a stroke.

Pretty cool, right? Five minutes or less of work can really change how immediate, how engaging, and how dynamic your sentences are.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

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