Thursday, January 10, 2019

7 Tips to Make You a More Observant Writer

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

By and large writers are an observant lot. Things others might brush over or miss entirely stay with us, sparking ideas that blossom and grow. An overheard conversation can lead us to the plot of entire book. 

But like any skill that comes naturally, there's still room for improvement. I call it focusing the writer’s eye. Today I want to give you seven tips to help you focus your writer's eye.

But like any skill that comes naturally, there's still room for improvement. I call it focusing the writer’s eye. Today I want to give you seven tips to help you focus your writer's eye.

Tips to Hone Your Observation Skills
1. Stop hearing, and take time to listen. The world around us is filled with words. So much so that it becomes a kind of white noise. As writers we need to be able to pick out the bits and pieces that resonate with the souls of our audience.

2. Search out the music. The spoken word can have a lyrical quality. As writers it’s our job to capture that music on a page. Develop an ear for the cadence in words and sentences.

3. Take what’s being said—not what’s meant—and follow it an unexpected end. For example, I overheard someone talk about another person’s downfail. No that’s not a typo, I meant to write DOWNFAIL. From the context, I know he meant to use the word, DOWNFALL. But that lead me to a cool devotion on the difference between the two concepts. 

4. Paint a picture . . . with words. Look at something that intrigues you, or inspires you, and recreate it in words. Try to boil it down to the essence in a way that others can experience what you did.

5. Expand your horizons. I’ve heard it said that the English language is limiting because it’s not a large language. There just aren’t as many words as in other languages. That may be true, but while the average adult is said to have a vocabulary of between 20,000 – 30,000 words, they probably only use about 5000. As writers, we need to strive to be above average. As a matter of fact, it’s my opinion we should set standard. 

6. Stretch your creative muscles. Along with number 5 above, don’t just stick with what you know and do well. Stretch yourself by venturing beyond your comfort zone. If your chosen field is fiction, try writing poetry. If you are most comfortable with non-fiction, give writing short stories a try. You may not choose to add that skill to your repertoire, but what you do write will be richer because you branched out.

7. Practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t matter what discipline, every artist will tell you it takes time to become proficient with your medium. This is just as true with words. Get familiar with your medium. Take time to learn the nuances, master the graceful ins and outs of language.

What are some things you do to help you see the world around you in such a way that you can capture it on the page? Share your own tips here. Also, I’d like to issue a challenge. Take one of the above points and practice it every day for a week. Then, next Friday, report back and let’s share what we’ve learned. I’ll do it too.

And don’t forget to join the conversation!



  1. Great post and great tips Ms. Edie. I loved #1; we often hear but seldom listen it seems. Well said! God's blessings ma'am.

  2. Some of my favorite qualities to use in characters have come from listening to people at the shopping mall. They walk around like they are n their own private world, talking to their companions, quite loudly sometimes. Or the phone conversations while wearing an earbud. I've turned several times thinking someone was talking to me. I pick out the ones with the strident voice, or the ones who are pleading.

  3. Thank you for the tips, Edie. Now I need to use the small notebook in my purse to jot down phrases, thoughts, and ideas when I hear them.

  4. Great post! I’m going with #3 because my DH is always misusing words...a fun challenge to take them somewhere besides gentle correction. :)

  5. A writer's world is available for all, if only we pause and experience. :-)

  6. to #5 - I am expanding all right, attempting a change up of genre - Christian romance!! OY to me!!!