Habits of highly effective writers

I’ll admit that this is a rather extensive list. A tall order for anyone. I cribbed much of the content from an ancient Hollywood memo for the work ethic expected of a Paramount story analyst. The original was written around the time crime writer Dashiell Hammett (most notably known for The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon) was cranking out his dark detective stories.

Try not to be put off by the rigors of this discipline. It intentionally sets a high bar that can easily be carried out for a lifetime. I do my best to abide by the example of excellence it sets.

First and foremost, read assiduously. A minimum of a 4 year college degree is required. A master’s degree or higher is preferable.

Write every day. Journaling is very useful as a daily practice but it is frequently stream of consciousness style writing and that is not sufficient for developing your style and facility with form.

Endeavor to complete works in different formats. As an example, learn to write a news story using the AP style book. Write a short story, a feature piece for a magazine. Create a novel, a memoir, a screenplay, a television show. Get published or self publish. Get produced or produce it yourself.

Stay apprised of best selling books, popular genres and prize winning writers, composers , directors and producers. Be current on Box Office and TV rankings. Read the trade publications.

Watch at least 3 feature films per week and several hours of television or other small screen programming. Develop an in-depth knowledge of the classic plays, books and films.

Regularly attend live theater and musical performances. Read reviews from several periodicals with contrasting opinions. Form your own opinion and be able to defend it.

Be concise in all your writing and avoid unnecessary verbiage. Continually expand your vocabulary. Use a thesaurus and employ metaphor where appropriate but be careful not to mix metaphors in the same document.

Become proficient in public speaking. Learn a second language. Practice proactive literary analysis. Anyone can be a critic. Ask yourself how a work can be improved and be specific about your answers.

Research and verify facts. This is always imperative but is of highest necessity when reporting news stories. Observe strict adherence to deadlines.

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