When I started writing I thought I knew everything. If anyone had any advice for me, I attacked their suggestions without thinking them through. Eventually, I decided I could do two things. I could either continue writing ‘my’ way or I could learn how to write from people who knew more than I did.
I bought more than 50 books on writing, I enrolled on a writing course, and I applied everything I learnt. I became a happier writer because I had more knowledge. I was more confident because I could look at writing problems in many different ways. I understood what writers needed to do if they wanted to be published.
When I began teaching my creative writing course, Writers Write, I could tell the writers who were most likely to become published by these qualities.
- Are willing to take chances and try something new in their writing. They listen to suggestions and they don’t take criticism personally. They may change genre or viewpoint or finally give up on a story that just isn’t working and start a new one.
- Mostly write in the active voice. It is almost as if they are taking responsibility for their writing and letting the characters take responsibility for their lives. They avoid the passive voice and let their characters act as the stars of the show.
- Write in specifics. They avoid the abstract and write in concrete terms. They don’t use modifiers and qualifiers, such as ‘nearly’, ‘quite’, ‘almost’ to hide what they’re trying to say.
- Don’t overwrite. When they’ve said what they need to say, they stop. They avoid padding their writing with unnecessary information or beautiful sentences.
- Use one or two the five senses on every page. They have learnt how to stop telling and they have mastered the art of showing. They know this is how readers remember stories.
- Do not pad their writing with adjectives and adverbs. They have learnt to choose the best nouns and the strongest verbs to paint a picture for the reader.
- Write with sentences that vary in length and structure. Read The Importance of Varying Sentence Length. They develop a rhythm. They also watch the right hand side of the page to make sure there is enough white space and that the pattern varies.
- Have a writing routine. They actively avoid getting into a rut and embrace the discipline of a writer’s life by sticking to a schedule.
- Are not defensive about their writing. They listen to constructive criticism. They do not attack people who think or write differently to them.
- Have a tangible writing goal. They have realistic, achievable deadlines.
I have learnt more about writing from teaching people how to write than I could ever begin to explain. I hope that some of this makes sense to you and helps you to become the best writer you can be.
© Amanda Patterson
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