All writers have experienced the first draft blues. The idea for the story came to us in a flurry of inspiration; the characters sauntered through our door, greeting us with their riveting personalities. Yet, as we sat down to write the story, the sentences stumbled and clanked together in an oafish web of prose. Too many writers have sat and stared at these first drafts thinking themselves too unskilled to give justice to their stories and characters. Yet, with only six simple steps writers everywhere can begin writing with style today.
Let’s review these steps below:
1. Write primarily with nouns and verbs.
Adverbs and adjectives often have a weakening effect on prose (this rule also applies to other writing forms, including articles and poetry). Now obviously, this rule is often broken with success. There are dozens, nay hundreds (thousands, even), of published novels to prove it, and sometimes adverbs and adjectives are necessary. The human language would be dreary without them. The key to success is in being selective in their usage. Use adverbs and adjectives sparingly with awareness and purpose.
2. Write in the positive form.
Instead of telling your reader what is not, tell your reader what is. Writing in the positive form and making definitive assertions results in colorful and bold prose that your reader will embrace. Do not be evasive or weak in your writing. Be bold.
|Negative Form||Positive Form|
|She was not usually on time.||She usually arrived late.|
|The man did not tell the truth.||The man was dishonest.|
|He did not believe it was possible.||He believed it was impossible.|
Further, when the writer does choose to utilize a negative statement, negative words other than “not” are usually a better choice. Reserve the word “not” for use in statements of denial or when contrasting ideas.
3. Show, Don’t Tell.
It’s true. This writing rule has been repeated ad nauseam, but it remains as significant as it has become cliché. It’s one of the most common mistakes made by beginning and experienced writers alike. Avoid dragging your reader behind you as you pull them through your story with a dull narration of events. Instead, export your reader into your story through vivid descriptions of the story’s action and scenery. Give specific references. Learn the names of things. Do not refer simply to, “the tree in the meadow.” Instead, tell us the type of tree. Is it an apple tree? Is it an oak? Notice, the different trees carry with them different connotations, which effect the tone of the story. This is the importance of showing. Just remember, keep the story moving forward.
YOU MUST SHOW ON THE GO.
4. Use the Active Voice.
In Active Voice, the subject in the sentence is performing the action expressed in the verb. Whereas, in passive voice, the actions are done to or received by the subject.
|The food was eaten by the dog.||The dog ate the food.|
|The ball was thrown by the boy.||The boy threw the ball.|
|Too much noise is being made by the kids.||The kids are making too much noise.|
In general, passive voice tends to sound weak and impotent. Active voice has a more energetic, lively feel, as well as an overall smoother flow. There will be times when you will need to use passive voice, these are generally when the object of the action is the most important part of the sentence. For example, if you are writing a sentence in which your subject is “the victim” but you are trying to draw attention to the knife, then passive voice may be your ally in this situation.
5. Manage the Flow.
Next, read your draft out loud. Pay attention to the sentence lengths. Is there a good mix? Do you have too many long sentences lined up back to back? This can cause the prose to sound too long-winded, while too many short sentences in a row will make the reader feel like they’re hitting every red light on Main Street during rush hour. The key is variation. Mix it up. Throw a short sentence after a long one. Put a one-worder somewhere for emphasis. Read it out-loud again. And again. Get it right. And while you’re at it, this is a good time to check your parallelisms. Do you have any lists within those sentences? If so, check to make all items in the list are in the same grammatical format (for example, all the verbs must have the same ending such as ing, or ed).
6. Avoid Redundancy.
Now that everything seems to be flowing smoothly, there’s one last thing to check. All writers, amateur or professional, should always check and be wary of redundancies. We all do it, and it seems for each new project the words change. For one story you may discover an unusual usage of “chums” and another you may be shocked to discover you’ve peppered “squad” every paragraph. Regardless of whatever word it may be, every project is sure to have a few offenders. No words should be repeated without the writer’s intent. Get a highlighter and start at the beginning. Highlight any repeating words, and as you highlight make a list with a tally for each word. At the end, analyze your results and adjust as needed.
As writers, we often feel over-whelmed with the ideas that come to us and our ability to bring them to life. It takes more than time and patience to overcome the doubt that shadows our greatest ideas, it also takes the dedication to learn and grow, and to constantly develop our skills. As such, Writing Bad is always open to your feedback and comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these suggestions.
Thank you for visiting today.
Until next time.