Dawn of Humanity / Man vs Nature / writers tips

7 Writing Hacks

During my promo for my latest prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature. one of my wonderful hosts posted this article  I wrote about writing hacks to make your job easier, faster, more energized. This is one of three on Writing Hacks. In case you missed it, here’s a revisit:


Writing is hard. And satisfying. And an opportunity for the long-sought-after huzzah moment. The harder something is, the more gratifying and the greater sense of achievement it gives.

If you find writing unduly challenging, try some of these simple hacks I’ve tried. Some were time-wasters but others were exactly what I needed:

Believe in yourself

This is fundamental. Believe in your writing ability. It doesn’t matter if no one else does. Lots of writers go through that. Find your voice and your core and keep writing.

Consider reading research, not a break

What a boon for those of us who love reading! Writers must find out about their topic and explore their genre by devouring related books. This isn’t wasting time. It’s part of being a writer.

Write in the active voice. “I was going…” might sound like your internal monologue but it’s boring. “I sprinted…” is much better.

Too often, we write in the passive voice to make our writing less judgmental or absolute. Resist that urge. Readers want you to be sure and put them there with you.

Unless you write dark or dystopian fiction, avoid negatives. Search your ms for “not” and “n’t” and change them to the positive of the word. For example: “I didn’t listen” can be reworded as “I ignored”.

Readers often read to escape, find a better world, join someone who can actually solve their problems. If you pepper your writing with ‘not’ and ‘n’t’, readers will subconsciously feel that negativity.

Run your ms through a grammar/spell checker before letting anyone see it.

Too many writers think its OK to have grammar/spelling errors because an editor will fix it for them. The problem is, your critique partners and beta readers get annoyed/tired/disgusted with poor grammar and will think less of the story.

If the novel is too short, add detail.

There are suggested word counts for genres. If you’re below yours, fix it by adding detail. Find where you mentioned something narratively and add detail or a scene about the room or the character’s feelings or the memory.

When you’re “showing-not-telling”, add a scene that ‘shows’ the action.

This is an easy fix that lots of people avoid. Sharing an event in scene–showing it–puts the reader right in the middle of the action. It will make it more interesting and add length to your ms (if you need that).


What are your favorite hacks?

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Man vs. Nature saga, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the acclaimed Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Spring 2022


89 thoughts on “7 Writing Hacks

  1. So much good gold here Jacqui! I agree about taking time for research. I did a lot of that when I delved into self-publishing and it was worth the time to take, and found how-to books to be very inspiring. Also writing in the active voice is way better and I have to remember that on my blog too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jacqui, how true that without your first point nothing would get written – always believing in oneself is key and I’ve made ‘trust’ my unofficial word for the year and first and foremost to trust myself and my ability! A lot of great points and a good idea to take the negativity out of one’s writing by avoiding the ‘n’t’ etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I second all of these hacks, Jacqui. I quite love research — becoming an armchair expert on my subject matter!

    One thing I see in a lot of manuscripts — both published and unpublished — is a tendency to preface an action with “I could see…” or “We could hear…” I come across that all the time. Cut all of those! Anything described in the prose narration is by definition something the POV character sees, hears, touches, smells, tastes, or thinks. If it’s a visual action you’re describing, it’s implicit that the protagonist “sees” it. No need to say, “I could hear a wolf howling in the distance” when “A wolf howled in the distance” does the job just as effectively. Once you start to look for “I could see” in fiction, you start seeing it everywhere. It’s a bad habit that writers should try to break.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do it all the time! And then slash it on a re-read.

      You have a heck of a post this week, Sean. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a review of their life. You really had me thinking.

      I know–probably not quite your intention, but it really struck me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you again, Jacqui! That means so much to me — truly. Before I posted it, I considered “A Hollywood Ending” a very personal essay and assumed no one would much care about it — and I was fine with that this time around! — but the response has really been overwhelming. As longtime readers of my blog know, I am always candid about my experiences and emotions — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and sometimes even I forget that it is candor that readers respond to above all. People just want to read emotionally honest stories, be them fiction or nonfiction. Another good “hack” to keep in mind!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Jacqui – I”m just glad I don’t feel I have to do anything … but always enjoy just being around and amongst friendly authors/bloggers – there’s so much to learn as we read, and as we browse salient sites … I’m just grateful I”m blogging and have subscribed to your newsletter … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank-you, Jacqui – great list, ‘ Believe in yourself’ ? Tricky for some of us. .. Aged 16, the title set for a high school public exam was
    ‘I believe in.#.. then write on that subject. Mine ?
    ‘ I believe in myself’
    Public exam, but the teachers read it, and tore me to pieces, in assembly. Convent school, self belief not on the curriculum –

    Liked by 1 person

  6. These are great hacks, Jacqui. Thank you so much for sharing. I particularly like your suggestion to go back and add detail if you’re short on length. Also swapping negative words for positive is a biggie. It never occurred to me at all. So this has been very helpful!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. My favorite writing trick is to … just write so many times we just over think things. Also it’s important to know where you are in a writing process – first draft, polishing, copy editing … and stick to your phase. If you’re in first draft mode, down’t worry about spelling, using the right word, etc just get the structure done and make notes on things you know you need to improve.

    Also, you don’t have to take everyone’s recommendations on changes to your story. Not everyone is right, use your critical thinking and tell the story you want to tell, not what others are telling you to tell.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks for this post. I have reached a ‘swing’ period with my writing (i.e. I still love writing but sort of need to take a break from current novel.) Thanks for pointing out again that reading and doing other writerly things supports your writing. I plan on a reading detour!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely! I will take about a year of that after this last novel in my trilogy. I need to get lost in the atmosphere of the time I’ll be writing about so I can accurately represent it. Enjoy your reading!


  9. Great hacks, Jacqui. You and I have talked before about doing searches for lame words, especially verbs, and I love that one. Also having the computer read the ms aloud. That one is critical because it catches so many problems! Happy Writing!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Excellent tips, Jacqui! I love keeping notes as I write. In Scrivener, I set up Custom Metadata prompts for essential scene details. For example: POV Character, intensity, conflict, stakes, humor, time, five senses, etc. You can include all those tips you read about from respected writing teachers. If interrupted from writing, your brief notes refresh your mind, helping you pick up right where you left off. They serve as trail markers during the editing process—another big takeaway!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Pingback: 7 Writing Hacks — – uwerolandgross

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