Top Ten Tips (Part 2)

Golden Rules For New 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 shouldn't be and it isn't. The following 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.

If you missed Part 1 of this Article, you can read it in its entirety at my website:

Spell well

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. If you don't have bricks, you cannot build yourself a house. You will probably find this hard to believe but spelling used to be taught in schools in the olden days. Nowadays most people who write do so on a word processor with a spell check function. It is apparent that many of these people do not bother to use their spell checker. This sort of laziness cannot be excused. At the same time, you should not rely entirely on the spell checker: 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. Do not attempt to

pad out your writing with unnecessary words: inserting a few adverbs or adjectives to boost the word-count never works and makes the article difficult to read. Keep it simple, whether people are reading for pleasure or enlightenment, they will not appreciate lumpy prose and they are not reading your work to marvel at your cleverness or your vocabulary. If you run out of things to say before your work is the length you wish to achieve, you are writing on the wrong subject or from the wrong angle.

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 particularly if you have written 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. If you were a tailor you would not offer your customer an unpressed garment. 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 cold 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 published by the author, Elaine Currie, BA(Hons) at The author's monthly newsletter is available free from mailto:[email protected]

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