How to Write Like a Pro in 3 Simple Steps: Going from Struggling Writer to Master Wordsmith

I may know a thing or two about wordsmithing.

For 12 years, I read seriously. For 6 years, I wrote on and off. Nothing to boast about, but my words earn me money long after I inked them onto the blank page.

I approach writing like a craftsman. I compare my work to written masterpieces. Not to say my work is on the same level. I compare to take note of what I have done well and what I can improve on. I read writing advice from those who dedicated their lives to words and reflect on how I create.

To this day, I keep my eyes open and ears clean for writing advice. By “writing,” I don’t mean choosing a topic or structuring your work. Writing in its simplest form is stringing one word after another, stringing one sentence after another, and laying the building block of a paragraph.

And frankly, if you look for writing advice, you will find more than you have time to take in. There are a million and one tweaks you can make to your writing — tactics, if you will. But no one can remember a million and one things.

I processed everything I know about mastering writing and distilled them into three simple fundamentals. Simple, not easy. After 12 years of reading and 6 years of writing, I realize that filling the blank page like a genius wordsmith involves these three things:

  • clarity
  • simplicity
  • covertness

Each fundamental is a building block to good writing. Once you master clarity, then move on to simplicity. Once you master simplicity, then move onto overtness. In the realm of overtness, your creativity and artistic expression will take root.

In other words, a beginner writer will focus on being clear. A journeyman writer will focus on being simple. And a master writer will focus on being overt.

1. Clarity (Beginner)

When you begin your writing journey, you should strive to be clear. You must ask, “Will the reader understand?”

Don’t be flowery or artsy. In almost all instances, write like how you speak. Write in a conversational tone. Use the word “you.” Use simple words.

Compare the following:

Gravity took over and I found myself surrounded by a salty aqueous matter.

I fell into the ocean.

Which one requires more effort to understand? The first.

Which one makes you say, “Huh?” The first.

Which one is poor writing? The first.

Many people write poorly because they don’t write clearly. If you ever read academic journals, you will know what I am talking about. Confusing, complicated, and convoluting.

If you write clearly, you can make money writing. No joke.

How to write clearer?

The best way to master clarity is to study master copywriters. Read The Boron Letters. Analyze how Gary Halbert writes. You will see how easy his letters goes from the page to your head. He is a prime example of writing conversationally.

Then write.

After internalizing clear writing through study and deliberate practice, you will write better than most people. Move on to the next fundamental.

2. Simplicity (Journeyman)

You can summarize this lesson with one word: reduce. Strip away all unnecessary words. Passive verbs, adverbs, superfluous adjectives. Get rid of them all. Replace them with words that works for their place — action verbs.

Filling your sentences with clutter is easy, especially if you write like you speak. People tend to say “ummm” and “uhhh.” They tend to use “am,” “are,” “is” and their past tense versions. They drag out their sentences when short ones will do.

Look at these two sentences:

She was a mean, uncaring women who broke my heart.

She ripped my heart out and stomped on it.

They say the same thing, but in different ways. The first sentence is clear and conversational. Good enough. But the second sentence grabs your heart and squeezes, without losing clarity. You can feel the pain and the hurt.

Strive for the second sentence.

How to write simpler?

Read widely. Read Hemingway. Read the Harry Potter series. Study John Carlton.

David Ogilvy, arguable the best copywriter, said, “I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor.” His secret to writing good copy: Be OK with producing a crappy first draft. Then refine it four or five times until it sparkles like diamonds. In the same way, create that first draft. Then refine it. Take out the passive verbs, adverbs, and superfluous adjectives. In their place, put in words that offer much punch for their space.

After internalizing simple writing through study and deliberate practice, you will possess skills that surpass those of most writers. Move on to the final fundamental.

3. Covertness (Master)

How-to articles and fact-based reports are the easiest to write. As long as you write clearly and as long as you have experience or data, you can write them. Sometimes, you can even make good money with them.

But if you want to unleash your creativity with words, you must go beyond overtness. You must be covert. You sentence much have a deeper meaning than the sum of the literal words. Look at Picasso. As he progressed in artistic skill, his art became more and more abstract.

Picasso - Real vs Abstract

Take a look at his La Rêve (The Dream), of his most beloved woman, Marie-Therese Walter.

Picasso - La Rêve

The painting sold for $155 million, the second most expensive in the world. Even though it does not mimic reality, it reflects the skills and passion of a master painter.

In the same way, as your writing skill advances, your work will become more and more abstract as you seek to expand the boundaries of your creativity. Your words will have a meaning beyond the literal. You will seek to create beauty in novel ways: metaphors & similes, poetries & lyrics, and parables.

How to write covertly?

Read beyond factual books and how-to articles. Enjoy the beauty of the written word through fiction. Watch shows and movies and pay attention to spoken dialogue. Listen to music.

At this stage, experiment with metaphors & similes. Don’t overdo them, a pinch will do.

During the climax of Fate/Stay Night, the defeated opponent said, “I thought I met a sparrow. Instead, I encountered a roaring tigress.”

What a musical sentence. His death would not have been as poignant if his last words were, “I misjudged you. You win.”

Also, write poetries & lyrics. Pull up the lyrics of songs you listen to and study them. One of the most memorable songs was sung by Johnny Cash, Empire of Dirt.

The words are clear and simple. But the meaning, not so easy to decipher. Is the regret referring to drugs or his contract with the devil?

And if you are ambitious enough, write parables — stories that mean something else underneath the surface.

How do you know if your work is good? Study great parables: the ones in the Bible, The Little Price by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (my all-time favorite fiction), and Aesop’s Fables.

A master wordsmith will constantly seek to reinvent himself. Thus, his work will reside in the realm of covertness.

After internalizing covert writing through study and deliberate practice, new worlds will open up. Your speech will have a musical tone. You will flirt better. You will understand how powerful people talk. You will transform your mind.

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