Or how to put your readers in the thick of the action

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Writing involves descriptions. You can’t just drop characters in a formless room and have them, say, swinging swords at each other without interacting with their environment.

That said, you can’t just wax lyrical about the surroundings and forget that you have a story to tell. Personally, I fall into the white-room category, often choosing to err on the side of too little description.

No matter what you choose, though, you should know that there’s a way to instantly spice up your writing, and that’s the use of concrete language. …


Sometimes it’s the smaller efforts that lead to bigger writing gains

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I was a stringer for the national newspapers once. My job was to pick up any assignments that the full-time team couldn’t handle, which amounted anywhere from one story every fortnight to two articles a week. That meant that my income was unstable at best, but what made up for it was the lack of daily commute or morning meetings, and all this before the digital nomad movement.

After spending most of my life in hairdressing (ten-hour workdays, six days a week, regardless of holidays) and auditing (in the office before the sun rose and out after the sun set)…


Because sometimes your job is to uphold the craft and to put out your best work

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It doesn’t matter if you’re on a magazine’s payroll or if you’re helping out a friend of a friend with his website copy — as a writer, you’ll need to answer to somebody for your work, more often than not.

The thing is, these relationships do sometimes come with a bit of feedback, and some people are better at giving it than others.

Trust me, it’s no fun reading an e-mail with a list of things you’ve done wrong, even when you put your heart and soul into it. But receiving feedback and amending your work doesn’t need to be…


You don’t need to spend ten years perfecting your craft before you share your story

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I feel I should clear things up before you guys go grabbing the pitchforks. The title doesn’t condone you lying — and you shouldn’t try to pass yourself off as something you’re not — but you can reframe a story so that it matches your narrative.

Take, for instance, the difference between a Dietetics Degree and trying out intermittent fasting for three months. So maybe you’re not qualified to give people nutrition advice, but you can share your own experiences about the diet plans you’ve personally tried.

Speaking of which, what constitutes an expert anyway? And what can you do…


And one quick tip to help you get started if you don’t

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Freelance writing is the dream, isn’t it? If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably fantasised about combining your wordsmithery with the nomad lifestyle.

What an image that’d be, occasionally taking your eyes off the mountainous horizon of Costa Rica to reply to a work e-mail, one that’d celebrate your great work and promise your payment before the day’s end.

Of course, some of you would know that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, you’d consider yourself lucky to even hear the word ‘payment’ mentioned more than once throughout your relationship with a client.

Still, it does well…


Other than the fact that I wasn’t a very good fighter

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I had many unorthodox interests growing up — I wanted to be a magician, an X-Games rollerblader, a breakdancer, a pro gamer, an MMA fighter — and thanks to the invention of the internet, I was able to truly learn just how lacking my country was when it came to these new interests.

For instance, instead of mixed martial arts (MMA), I would train kickboxing, only because it was one of the few martial arts gyms in Malaysian that didn’t involve Silat, Karate, or Taekwondo.

The gym I joined was geared more towards fitness, so I never really got to…


A guideline on how to draw the most attention to your stories

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The only qualification I had when I first started writing for a living was an accounting diploma. That, and some six years of hairdressing experience.

So I was surprised to get a call from a local NGO about my mentorship application I had sent in just the day before. Apparently, someone like me — who’d blundered from one writing niche to another — did have something to offer the next generation.

Train the trainers

As mentors, we were required to sit through four lessons so that we’d all be on the same page when it comes to disseminating the syllabus to our mentees…


Or how to let your favourite publications know that you exist

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I remember reading a travel magazine and browsing the list of editors and writers, wondering how I could secure such a sweet gig. I used to picture these writers as a team of handpicked talents, each so sure of their craft, writers who could fly to Myanmar and find themselves a story behind every temple.

I would later land one such job and learn that things weren’t so mystical behind the scenes. …


And it wasn’t through hustling or grinding through pointless tasks

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Okay, let’s get this out of the way: I stopped procrastinating by turning tasks into habits.

There, that’s the entire article summed up in one sentence. Now you can close the window if you’re the TLDR type, because you won’t be finding that one magic tip here.

But while I don’t have the magic solution, I think I’ve experimented enough to safely say that we’re all quite capable of rewiring ourselves.

I say this as someone who’s self-learned Chinese for more than a year now, and I’ve done so every day without fail. It wasn’t even something I was particularly…


Because some of your best work might happen when you don’t do it for anyone else

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Would you continue writing even if no one reads your work? On the other hand, would you voluntarily write something meant for your eyes only? Would the act of expression itself please you? Or would you write only to the promise of monies and adulation?

Oh, don’t look at me that way. I assure you that this question isn’t as silly as it seems. There have been famous authors who didn’t set out to be published, after all. Take Emily Dickinson, for example. She’d written over 1,800 poems without the intent of seeing them in print. They were discovered only…

Stuart Danker

Stuart is a Malaysian-based writer who’s left travel writing for the world of fiction. His first novel is set to be published in 2021. www.stuartdanker.com

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