FUNNY WOMEN #110: Ten Billion Tips to Becoming a Better Writer


There are a lot of writing tips out there, but here’s a comprehensive list from someone who’s been “there.” Like a heaping dish of chewy meat, you should take them with a grain of salt.

1) DON’T TAKE THESE TIPS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT! That was a trick, to see if you fall for the glittering allure of trite aphorisms.

2) Avoid figurative language, like my stupid simile above. How dumb did that sound?

3) Avoid alliteration.

4) Write by hand. Or on a computer. Or on a typewriter. Or in your own blood on the dried bark of an Aspen tree. Just get those words on the Page! (Page is my first pit/lab mix—I Sharpied my first short story onto his left flank.)

5) READ articles about writing. READ articles about writing. READ MORE articles about writing.

6) Write every day with no exceptions. Unless your head kinda hurts; then you get a pass. Your head should be in tip-top shape. (That’s where your brain is, and you CANNOT write without your brain.)

7) If you’re having trouble getting started, then try doing another task that you’ve been meaning to get to, like cleaning your desk, curating the plastic bags under your sink, scrubbing your tile with an old toothbrush, or watching that part in Forrest Gump where they scrub tile with an old toothbrush.

8) Write what you know! The back of the Cheez-It box, the copy on the homepage of your Netflix queue, the Facebook statuses of your friend Dave’s model/actress girlfriend . . . as Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself—everyone else is already taken.” And as the Cheez-It box said, “ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), SOYBEAN AND PALM OIL WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS, SKIM MILK CHEESE (SKIM MILK, WHEY PROTEIN, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES, ANNATTO EXTRACT FOR COLOR), SALT, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF PAPRIKA, YEAST, PAPRIKA OLEORESIN FOR COLOR, SOY LECITHIN.”

9) Experiment with fonts. Especially if what you wrote was kind of stupid—it might look cooler/smarter in a serif.


10) Try writing at different times of day—like when you’re supposed to be at the dentist, a good friend’s birthday party, or your wedding. Nothing is more important than writing. NOTHING.

11) Subscribe to literary magazines. Then, when you throw them away unread every month, you’ll feel firsthand the crushing reality that every written word is eventually forgotten and ignored!

12) Grammar matters. But it’s also boring and hard to learn. So find one of those annoying, Type A automatons who know the difference between an “em dash” and a “semicolon” to look over your work and fix it for you. Don’t worry about paying them—the sadism of fixing your freewheeling mistakes will be recompense enough for those adult virgins. You’re an ARTIST. You shouldn’t have to worry about that nitty gritty crapola. Was there supposed to be a hyphen between nitty and gritty?

13) TRICKED AGAIN—it don’t matter!

14) Trust your gut.

15) REVISE! Your gut is a derivative hack.

16) Still stuck? Take a trip to The Container Store! They have storage solutions for modern living that can get that clutter/bad writing off your desk.

17) Nine times out of ten, a concise, clear sentence trumps a meandering, poetic one. Create sentences that glisten like orchids in the soft Hawaiian spring, blooming like some heartbreaking reminder of an ancient world, coming to tell you that all, yes, all, will eventually be lost . . .

18) Take your time!

19) It’s a process. 20) Show, don’t tell. 21) Structure?!

22 to 10,000,000,000) Gonna get these to you very soon—just making some final tweaks before I turn them in because everything isn’t finished until it’s perfect. Oops that’s a good tip—

23) —every thing you write should be 100% perfect. As Walt Whitman said, “A perfect writer would make words sing, dance, kiss, do the male and female act, bear children, weep, bleed, rage, stab, steal, fire cannon, steer ships, sack cities, charge with cavalry or infantry, or do anything that man or woman or the natural powers can do.” And as Dave’s Girlfriend said, “What an amaaaaaaaaaazing week: booked my first catalogue campaign AND the boo got me tulips! The universe truly has amazing things in store!” And as the Cheez-It box said, “CONTAINS WHEAT, MILK, AND SOY INGREDIENTS.”


Rumpus original art by Annie Daly.


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Langan Kingsley lives in New York City and performs at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. You can comb through her thoughts on Twitter @thisislangan. More from this author →