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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Writing is Terrible!

My Writing is Terrible!

We’ve all had this happen to us: the moment when we realize that what we wrote is not as great as we thought.  Most of us as writers like to believe that our writing is superb.  We hate criticism and it is hard to not take it personally.  But sometimes we have to step back and ask ourselves: did I write this to the best of my ability?

I work as a freelance editor as well as an Independent author. I have edited many manuscripts that left something to be desired, as far as the writing went.  Most of these came from those in their teens or early twenties.  With the rise in self-publishing I have noticed many books being published by teenagers the moment they finish writing them.  The problem with this is it gives credence to the idea that self-published work is garbage; it also means that a story was published that people will not remember years later.

So, how as an author do you turn your work into something that shines?  Before you send that manuscript off to be published you want to:
·         take a writing course or two.
·         put your story away for a few weeks or months before going back through it. This will give you a fresh perspective.
·         send it off to a professional editor

Hone your craft.  Take writing courses at the local university.  Many colleges offer online courses that you can sign up for to fit your busy schedule.  Learn the basics of grammar, punctuation, and spelling.  Everything starts with the basics so learn them well. 

Take creative writing classes.  These not only help you improve your writing, but will also help with brainstorming ideas for your stories.  In my creative writing classes the students critiqued each other’s writing.  This is of great assistance.  Critiques from fellow students are more constructive and of better use than any negative review of your book. 

Learn how to write fiction as well as nonfiction.  I majored in History in college.  In my classes I had to learn how to research topic and then turn all of those facts into a comprehensive paper that people could read and easily understand.  My creative writing classes taught me how to write fiction.  I’m sure you have heard the old adage show, don’t tell.  This holds true for fiction.  Most of the manuscripts I receive for editing, the author tells the story.  In a world of visual media, this style of writing proves boring.  You’ll lose your reader’s attention.

Show the story.  Use descriptive voice.  Use sounds, adjectives.  Think about the setting for your scenes.  What are the colors, the landscape, buildings?  Are there any smells?  Sounds?  Incorporate as much as you can into the narrative of you novel.  Make the reader feel as though they are in your story.

Get a thesaurus.  Thesauruses are your best friend as a writer.  A lot of us get stuck in finding words to describe the setting of our novels.  A thesaurus will help find words that mean the same thing, but are different enough to break up any repetitiveness in your writing.  For instance, instead of using the word hit in the same paragraph five times try: smacked, kneed, punched, or struck.  Not only are these verbs stronger, but they make your writing more interesting.

Don’t be a hurry to publish your work.  Too many new authors are in such a hurry to get published, that they put their work on sale without even considering that it might not be worth a person’s time purchasing it.  Comb through your writing.  Get a third party to read it; not your friends or family.  You need someone who will be brutally honest about the quality of your writing to read your manuscript. 

Always remember that your first draft is going to be terrible.  That is the nature of first drafts.  Some of the most well-known authors rewrote their work several times before getting it just right.

Another thing to keep in mind: there will always be those who do not like your books.  Even after all the work you put into your novel to get every sentence and every word perfect, there is going to be someone who does not like it.  It’s inevitable.  Even J.K. Rowling got negative reviews for Harry Potter.  So if you get a negative review, thank the reviewer and do not take his opinion personally. 

Just remember: writing is a skill as well as a craft.  Learn it well.

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