Doubting your writing skills is almost a constant for most writers, especially at the beginning of their writing careers. Writing is usually a deeply personal process, that when rejection comes, it can be hard to handle. However, rejections happen in all professions and with all that motivational speaking around us, we should know by now, that “fail” simply means “First Attempt In Learning”
Many writers will send off unsolicited samples, and never get a response back. Do not let that worry you. It is quite similar to sending off CVs when applying for a job.
Sometimes we can send off one hundred CVs and never hear back. This does not mean that our education or our experience is less important. Sometimes it just means that competition is fierce, or that a particular writing gig simply was not a good match for you.
Even when you work with clients, your articles might get rejected once in a while. Having said all that, there are many ways we can continue to improve and grow as writers.
1. Mind Your Words
Writers tend to believe that bigger, more complex words sound better to the reader.
There is also a tendency to use complex sentence structure, in an attempt to appear professional and well-researched on the subject we are writing about.
When in reality most writing needs to be simple enough to engage the average reader.
Of course this might not be the case if you are writing for Academia or Medical journals.
Instead of saying:
- “in accordance with”, say “by”
- “In a timely basis”, say “fast”
- “Due to the fact that”, say “since”
Generally, try to be precise and clean in your writing.
2. Mind the Descriptions
Details will help your readers create a connection with your story, and paint the mental image of what you are describing. A good example is, instead of just saying “tall”, give exact measurements.
A great rule to keep in mind is the “showing versus telling” rule. Showing will force you to use more details in your descriptions.
Saying that the day was “hot” is not as descriptive as saying “the temperature that day was 115 degrees”. Another example would be instead of writing “used clothes”, choose “the clothes were clearly used, the fabric was faded and distressed”.
3. Mind the Empty Words
Empty words are easy to use but should be utilized sparingly. They come naturally to us and they are great fillers.
- Good / bad
Let’s examine this further.
“Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield is a good book for people looking to learn how to follow their inner voice”.
The above statement is correct but is not giving the detail a reader might need to get an accurate insight to the book.
Does the following description sound better?
“Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield examines what we consider random coincidences in life, as a possible method to guide ourselves during transitional periods in our lives. The book highlights how synchronicity works and uses examples to allow each reader to extract their own personal spiritual awakening”.
Empty words are not going to be detrimental to your writing career of course.
However, whenever you find an opportunity, give your reader more.
4. Mind Your Adverbs
Adverbs are tricky and can be repetitive if we do not pay attention.
World famous writers claim that using adverbs altogether is a sign that we are using the wrong verbs to begin with.
A famous quote by Stephen King reads: “The road to hell is paved by adverbs”.
Instead of saying:
- “Said loudly”, say “roared”
- “Walked softly”, say “tiptoed”
- “Appeared slowly”, say “emerged”
- “Asked quietly”, say “murmured”
Do not obsess about your adverbs when you are initially writing your story.
During editing however, do a special run for your adverbs and see if you can replace them with stronger verbs.
5. Mind Your Jargon
Jargon are phrases and words used by particular groups, but might not be well-understood by the general public. If you are writing for a wider audience, it is best to avoid jargon.
It is okay to use jargon if you know that the article will be read just by that particular group of people.
- The economy is in a bear market
- Giving 110 percent ( this is not possible anyways)
- Pre-plan (it is redundant to say “pre” before “plan”)
The list of jargon can be long and it varies with each particular area.
Do some reading on jargon so you begin to identify these words when they pop up in your writing.
6. Mind the Ramblings
Rambling is tiring to the readers. It can indicate lack of confidence in your writing skills, or that you are trying too hard to prove a point.
Here is an example:
“Johnson and his business partners at PetsCo Ltd, designed an app to take full advantage of the long list of PetsCo Ltd client’s data, Petapp, which delivers automated reminders to pet owners for their pet’s grooming and other needs; send relevant pet news to clients; is super user-friendly; enterprise-wide administration; and will allow PetsCo Ltd to effectively market other discounts and deals to the long list of clients they already have; minimizing any excessive marketing expenses. “
My eyes completely glazed over, and I lost the point of the sentence somewhere halfway.
Use shorter sentences, this allows the reader to pause and examine what they just read.
7. Just Write
Have you ever heard of the general rule of thumb that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be considered an expert in any field?
This theory was popularized back in 1993 by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers”.
Whether or not you believe in the precision of the theory, the general point here is that practice long enough and you will eventually get there.
Challenge yourself to write about subjects that you are not familiar with, and explore different styles and genres.
8. Use Technology
There is an abundance of tools out there to assist you with your grammar, structure and fluency.
- Hemingway App
Do not rely on these apps to write, but use them to help you edit your content.
There is an abundance of advice from experienced writers but some of the best tips we have come across include:
- Pick your writing hours
- Read books
- Writing something is better than nothing
- Stop writing while the story is good
- Do not be discouraged
- Use your positive and negative emotions to fuel your writing
- …and make sure to have fun in the process