Top Ten Tips For New Writers
Golden Rules For Writers - Things you need to know before you begin.
Rules govern everything we do in life; even if those rules are of the unwritten kind we abide by them and expect other people to do the same. Why should writing be any different? It isn’t. These rules are the basis for good writing. If anyone tries to tell you that rules are made to be broken, remember that you have to learn those rules before you try to bend them or break them otherwise you are just being sloppy, not radical.
The following rules are essential if you want people to take you seriously.
Write from the heart or the head or the gut, depending upon the type of writing you are doing. Never try to imitate somebody else’s style, no matter how much you might admire it, you will always appear fake. Find your own unique style, your own voice.
Know Your Subject
Write on topics you know about. Although that sounds obvious you don’t have to look very far to find masses of people publishing articles when it is clear that they have very little idea about their subject matter. This type of writing appears thin, limp and unconvincing even to the untrained eye. You should aim for writing which has substance; a rounded, healthy thing with a life of its own. Make the effort to research before you publish. If you can’t get to the library, there is always the internet. There is no excuse for trying to foist a poorly researched article on your readers. Do you want your readers to point you out as someone who does not know what s/he is talking about?
Write about things which interest you. If you are not interested in your subject matter, you have little hope of catching the interest of your reader. If you are in a situation where you simply have to write about a subject which holds no real interest for you, try at least to find an original angle; this could stimulate you as well as your reader. If you cannot spark an interest in your subject, your writing will be flat and boring.
Don’t be one of those people who pretend they don’t think punctuation matters: it does. Ask yourself this: if these people really believe that, why do they bother to punctuate at all? Why don’t they just write on and on without any dots or commas? That, surely, is more logical than putting in dots and commas in the wrong places. The truth is, they are too lazy to learn the rules and think they can get away with this by brushing punctuation off as unimportant. Punctuation has had a very bad time over the last forty years or so but I believe it is about to undergo a revival. These things go in cycles and it seems that punctuation is about to have its day at last. Correct punctuation could be the new black. If you don’t believe this, how do you explain why so many thousands of people bought “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”? Even if you have no interest in creating elegant prose, you should learn about punctuation . Without it your writing will at best be difficult to read and at worst not make sense. You will be left wondering why people are laughing at your serious work.
Respect the apostrophe
I know, I know, this is part of punctuation. I happen to think that apostrophes have spent so long being either ignored or abused they now deserve a mention of their own. I can cope quite well with commas and full stops appearing in the wrong place but an incorrectly inserted apostrophe makes me see red. Why do so many people insist on using the apostrophe when they clearly have no idea of its function? Beats me. An improperly placed apostrophe is to writing what a huge, ugly wart is to the nose on a beautiful face. Cruel people will point and laugh at you. You think I am exaggerating? If I am part of a minority on this point, why did so many people buy “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” that it became Book of the Year? Perhaps they thought it was a story about a panda.
Get great grammar
The rules of grammar are not difficult. In the olden days even little kids were taught grammar at school. One good thing about the rules of grammar is that they don’t keep changing so, once you learn the rules, they will stand you in good stead for the whole of your writing career. Along with punctuation, it is grammar which determines whether or not your writing makes sense. If you don’t know the rules, you will not know if your writing makes sense but other people will, believe me. (Back to pointing and laughing again.)
You need to be able to spell in order to write properly. If punctuation is the putty in your windows, spelling is the bricks out of which your house is built. You will probably find this hard to believe but spelling used to be taught in schools in the olden days. You should not rely entirely on the spell checker on your word processor: it is only a machine trying to guess what word you have scrambled. If you are not sure about a word, look it up in a dictionary: it never hurts to know the correct meaning of words as well as the correct spelling. Never forget that spell check will take your words out of context: if you type “He sold his soul to Santa”, you can’t blame the spell checker for not knowing your really meant “Satan”. People would snigger cruelly if you failed to correct this.
Keep to the point
Never make the mistake of padding out your writing with unnecessary or irrelevant details. Keep to the subject announced in your title, after all, the title is probably what attracted the reader in the first place. If the body of your work does not relate to the expectation aroused by the title, the reader will feel tricked and nobody likes that feeling - your reader will move on to read somebody s/he can trust.
Read and revise
Boring but essential. However much we enjoy the writing process, reading the end product over and over and making changes is not what we want to be doing. We would rather be starting the next article which is bubbling up in our brains but we have to read, re-read, revise and revise again. It is easy to make mistakes when writing something over a long period . If you do not correct your mistakes before publication, you will lose the trust of your audience. (I never got over the fact that one of my favourite authors accidentally changed the date of birth of a main character half way through a novel. How could I ever believe in his people if they had moveable birthdays?) If you were a carpenter, you would not offer your customer an unfinished piece of furniture. The author should not dream of offering the reader an unpolished piece of writing.
Sleep on it
Don’t be in a rush to publish your work the minute it is finished. Let it rest. If it is ready for publication, it will still be ready tomorrow but, if it is not quite ready, you will have given yourself a chance to make a final amendment. This is particularly relevant when you are writing shorter things. If you have spent months redrafting a novel, you are likely to know if you have satisfactorily completed the final draft but it is easy to knock out and send off short items such as articles or letters and then regret our haste. There is always scope for improvement and what looks like a work of art in the evening glow, might not appear so well in the harsh morning light.
Pay attention to detail
If you do not pay attention to detail, you will not discover your errors and there will be plenty of people out there who will be delighted to pick out and highlight the smallest error. Some people just can’t help themselves: it is the way they are made (the way I react when a menu offers me a choice of “Salad’s” - salad’s what?). Other people are just waiting to see you trip yourself up. Don’t give them the satisfaction: get things right before they start pointing and you will have the last laugh. If you have realised that this paragraph is number eleven of my top ten and are already laughing - Well Done! If you did not notice - see what I mean?
This is one of a series of articles about working from home
and writing published by the author, Elaine Currie, BA(Hons)
at http://www.huntingvenus.com The author’s newsletter,
One Percent, is available free from her website or from huntingvenus@SubscribeMeNow.com
Elaine Currie, BA (Hons), is a writer and internet marketeer. She came to the internet after a 25 year career at a London law firm, seeking a new career path. Knowing only that she wanted the opportunity to spend more time writing and to be her own boss, Elaine discovered the concept of the "pluginprofitsite" (details can be seen at http://www.pluginprofitsite.com/main-4295) and has not looked back since then. Elaine's conviction that "what goes around comes around" led to her establishing her "ETM" (Ethical Marketing System). She says: "It is an old fashioned notion, but I was brought up to believe that honesty is the best policy. I have no time for empty advertising hype, which is just another name for lies.”