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Top Writing Tips from Exeter University

Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, writing can be a tough business. Curious about the top writing tips from Exeter University? Of course you are! Below, Nickie Shobeiry picks the brains of some of Exeter’s best English students and graduates.

·        “Your writing doesn't need to be perfect in the first draft. Go crazy, make the grammar appalling, make grossly inaccurate statements, and make it basically unreadable by anyone except for you. That's when all the best ideas come out. Then edit into something readable.”

 -  Torran McEwan, Exeter graduate and co-founder of Fugly Theatre (Twitter: @FuglyTheatre


·        “In academic and creative writing, it is imperative to utilise every word. Make your sentences direct. Write assertively, argue passionately. Defamiliarise your language, never dilute your images. Most importantly, when you think you have finished editing, think again.” 
 - Millie Guille, Exeter graduate and MA student at the Oxford University (Twitter: 


·        “Exeter taught me that preparation is everything. It is okay to spend hours preparing what you will write as you sort through your thoughts and arguments. Do not rush this phase, because it makes the actual writing act so much easier and enjoyable once you come to it. I also learnt to be uninhibited - to speak my truth, or rather, to write what's true to me." 
 - Grace Kabeya, Exeter undergraduate and founder of 
Kamaria Press (Twitter: @Kamaria_Press / IG: @KamariaPress)



·        “Go and listen to other writers, whether that's at open mics, slams, or just plain readings. I always feel inspired and ready to write after listening to other people's work.” 
 - Amani Saeed, Exeter graduate and award-winning slam poet (Twitter: @AmaniExchange19 / Youtube: Amani Saeed)  


·        “Work on refining a distinctive voice, even in non-fiction and academic writing. Ideas are conveyed most effectively when they resonate with the reader, and the best way to achieve this is to be personable and unpretentious. Steer clear of clinical and dry writing which has been edited and re-edited into a joyless heap of black squiggles. Don't be afraid to be witty and charming, as long as it doesn't come at the expense of clarity. Learn that it is possible, and preferable, to have fun with your non-fiction writing.”

 - Becky Shapland, MA Student at Exeter  University

·        “Writing in someone else's style or to please someone is the surest way to make you stop writing altogether.” 
 - Christy Ku, Exeter graduate and award-winning writer (Twitter: @kukadoodles / Youtube: Kukadoodles)

·        “Be as clear and concise as possible. When editing your work, if you can rewrite a sentence with fewer words, do. Long sentences and overly complex grammatical constructions only serve to obscure the meaning you're trying to get across. Plus, writing concisely means that you will be able to convey more of your ideas within your word limit. A good rule of thumb is that if your sentence is more than three lines long, it's too long. Try cutting out unnecessary words or splitting it into two sentences.” 
 - Charlie Morrison, MA student at Exeter and former Editor-in-Chief of 
PearShaped Music Magazine


·        “I think the thing that most budding writers lack above all else is confidence. You can't have perseverance without confidence. So my advice is to find any way you can to build up that well of confidence inside you: write what you like, instead of feeling constrained to a certain style. Steal lavishly from other writers. Ignore every convention that you don't like the sound of... just write the way you want, and just let yourself slowly realise how brilliant a writer you can be.”
- Ollie Toms, Exeter graduate


·        “I noted this down from a lecture: 'The exact word is the right word. No two words mean the same thing.’ I think this applies to all types of writing, from creative to analytical; it's very easy to use 'clever' sounding jargon, but sometimes, the more literal way of saying something comes across the most intelligent.” 
 - Sophia Munyengeterwa, Exeter graduate

·        “The best thing, and the thing I wish I'd known earlier, is to ask for help when you need it. I got my personal tutor to look over my writing, and she pointed out how certain elements of it - such as the grammar - were probably making me lose marks. After she helped edit it for me, my grades actually improved quite a bit. She also suggested that I might have dysgraphia, which would explain the difficulty I sometimes had with explaining myself. I would never have realised that on my own, so having a professional read over my work for me was so helpful.” 
 - Sarah Merritt, Exeter graduate, writer and artist (Tumblr: Cvetlanas / Twitter: @Burnt_Norton


Go forth and write, friends! But first - what are your best writing tips?

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