Writing Wednesday: 5 More Secrets of Good Writing

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A writer’s work is never finished. When one draft is complete there are always revisions to make, and even after your work is published there can be a new edition or creative work calling your name. Because the writing process is ongoing, it’s important to continue to work on developing your skills.

That’s why, when we took a look at “The 5 Secrets of Good Writing” on a previous Writing Wednesday, we should have mentioned we were only scratching the surface of what makes a quality piece of writing. In case you’ve already mastered our first set of tips, here are five more to help in the evolution of your writing style.

1) Eliminate Throat-Clearing

When it comes to writing, “throat-clearing” refers to those opening pages of a chapter or book that exist simply to set the scene. While details of a setting or character’s background are important, try to incorporate those into the actual meat of your story. This sort of idea dump can be useful when writing your first draft, but once you have your plot points decided, be sure to go back and tighten up that weak and lengthy intro.

2) Take a Break Between Writing and Editing

The reason a professional editor is so useful is because she or he has never read the draft before. The further you can remove yourself from the writing process before tackling the editing, the better. The less familiar you are with what’s written on the page the more clearly you will be able to catch mistakes or plot inconsistencies. Be sure to take a break after writing your first draft before taking a second look at it so you can be sure you’re ready with fresh and critical eyes.

3) Read Your Writing – Aloud

You may write a sentence that looks beautiful on paper but is confusing or frustrating for your readers to understand. The best way to catch these accidental tongue-twisters is to read your draft aloud during the editing process. If even you – the author – can’t keep up with the flow of a sentence or paragraph, then you have a good indication something isn’t working in that passage and it’s time to uncap your editing pen.

4) Don’t Rely on Stage Direction

Unless you are actually a playwright or theatrical director, avoid stage direction as much as possible in your writing. While certain descriptors of movement and action can greatly enhance a piece of writing, give your reader some credit for certain things. For example, rather than saying, “He ran through the open door into the room, took a look around, saw a chair and sat down to talk to his brother, who was sitting on the other chair,” you can simply state, “He ran into the room and took a seat across from his brother.” You’re not directing actors here. Just give enough description to let your readers’ imaginations fill in the rest.

5) Avoid Confusing Character Names

If you have ever found it hard in a social situation to remember the names of everyone you met, then you can relate to readers of a book with countless characters to keep track of. Don’t over-complicate the introduction process by assigning similar names to different characters – in fact, try to avoid repeating even the same initials if you can! This will give your readers a better chance at remembering each character (and his/her individual characteristics) from the beginning, rather than having to flip back a few chapters when in the middle of a back-and-forth conversation.

What’s the most helpful writing tip you’ve ever received?

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