The Simplest Writing Tip to Make You a Better Writer

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Write Better Now
Write Better Now
The Simplest Writing Tip to Make You a Better Writer

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’s a really simple writing tip to make you a better writer.

I (Carrie) talk a lot to my writers about distancing words, which are words in writing that keep the reader away from the action. Those are words like:

  • Saw,
  • Heard,
  • Noticed,
  • Smelled,

And they take away from the immediacy of the story.

A writer will write:

Carrie heard the bomb explode.

And the reader will be one extra step away from the experience. Instead, you could write:

The bomb exploded.


A massive bomb shook the area outside the Boston Panera. Glass shattered from the front window, instant projectiles stabbing into pavement, cars, flesh.

It depends on how in depth you want to go, but either example is more intense than “Carrie heard the bomb explode.”

So, a sub category of those distancing words that you want to get rid of in your writing are “thought” verbs.

Those are words like:

  • Thinks,
  • Loves (sometimes)
  • Knows,
  • Understands,
  • Realizes,
  • Hates (sometimes)
  • Believes,
  • Wants,
  • Remembers.

Why shouldn’t we use those words?

It’s pretty lazy. You’re a writer trying to build this entire world and experience for a reader and to do that you have to give concrete examples of what’s going on in that world, to bring the reader in and create immediacy.

You build that world piece by piece, laying out the details the way someone lays out an argument trying to convince you of something.

We’ll give you a quick example.

Shaun loves Carrie.

Yeah. Okay. Right? Maybe we believe it. But what if we wrote:

Every morning, Shaun padded down the stairs in his gym shorts, large, pale feet cold against the wood floor and filled the electric kettle, turning it on to boil. And every morning about ten minutes after Shaun started the tea, turned up the heat, let the dog out into the snowy yard to do his business, Carrie made it down the stairs too, wiping the sleep from her eyes. Shaun held out the mug of tea. “Be careful, baby. It’s hot.”

         He said that same thing every morning.

         And then he’d wink.

We now know that Shaun’s love language is acts of service and he’s giving those acts to Carrie that ungrateful woman. 🙂

Writing isn’t about shortcuts and abstractions. It’s about details, evidence, and communicating a world bit by bit. When you get rid of those abstractions and add those details, the evidence, when you SHOW the reader what’s going on rather than TELLING them? That’s when you become great.

Thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

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.

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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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