The Mechanics of Writing

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I wrote the first part of this post back in 2011. It is as relevant now as it was back then… It highlights the mistakes we are all guilty of. No matter what form your writing may take, there are a few givens which always apply.

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  1. Overly long sentences are to be avoided at all costs – GUILTY!
  2. Too much or too little punctuation, combined with unnecessary use is also to be avoided – GUILTY!
  3. Too much descriptive narrative is not desirable – GUILTY!
  4. Too little, or too much conversation between characters either annoys the reader, or bores them to death – GUILTY!
  5. Don’t be afraid to make your characters three dimensional – VERY GUILTY!
  6. Avoid overly long paragraphs – GUILTY!
  7. Determine what is the appropriate length for each chapter – not sure, then ask your colleagues for their advice. Better still take a look at some of the books in your personal library.
  8. Don’t be afraid to change a word when the offending word has another form far more suitable – GUILTY!
  9. Be highly critical of your own work, why, because your readers surely will be, that’s why – GUILTY!

Back then I was totally guilty of all of the above.

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As I now sit reading through yesterdays contribution to my latest sci-fi manuscript I find myself scratching my head as to why I wrote each sentence in the way I did. At the time when that sentence first leapt from my mind onto this computer screen it made complete sense. But does it now – no, not really.

Don’t think that spending hours each day working your way through several chapters at a time will solve the problem either – it won’t. You need to take bite sized chunks and rewrite them. To do this you must be fresh and wide awake. These days after editing the previous day’s effort, I deliberately restrict my daily input to between two hundred to two hundred and fifty well chosen words. While working this way means that the novel will take longer than normal, take it from me when I say the end result will be worth it.

Stop for a cup of tea, coffee or even something stronger. If the weather is fine, get outside for a break away from those pesky words sitting there in front of you for an hour or so, they’ll still be there when you get back.

Above all, don’t treat your writing efforts as a chore. Relax; enjoy watching that story or article slowly unfold in front of you.

When your work is fired back to you from fellow writers whose opinion you value as trusted unbiased beta readers, don’t take umbrage at their suggestions. Take what they say on the chin, learn from them – I did.

Since 2011 I’ve come a long way in the writing game. I’ve learned a hell of a lot. With each successive novel, I can honestly say I have improved immeasurably.

You can to…

2 thoughts on “The Mechanics of Writing

  1. I never could understand why everyone emphasizes short sentences. When someone writes a book, be it fiction or nonfiction, you’re not writing for a news agency. You’re writing for a person who’s more or less comfortable to be reading the thing. The inversed pyramid isn’t necessary, cause the reader’s not facing a civil war. And besides, we’re not here to inform, we’re here to entertain. I’ve read a lot of nonfiction, and the sentences are far from short. But that’s the nature of the domain, be it physics, economics, or biology. I’m looking forward to be also guilty of nr 3 on your list ^^.

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    • While each of the nine are looked upon as hard and fast rules by certain pedantic individuals Serban, there are occasions where it makes sense within the context of a story to break the odd one or two from time to time. 🙂

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