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As a writer it is all too easy to concentrate on the mechanics of submitting work to editors and to forget that the writing itself is of primary importance. We should all be constantly seeking to improve. If we do that, editorial approval will become that much easier.
To that end, here are five things you can start doing today that will immediately improve your writing, and with it your chances of getting published.
Improve your vocabulary
Buy a good dictionary, and learn a word every day. Play around with it, using it in sentences, in dialogue and description. As you go along, make a list of the words you’ve learned. At the end of the month, try to write down a definition beside each word. If you can’t remember what the word means, look it up again, play with it again, and leave it on the list for another month. I guarantee your vocabulary will grow in leaps and bounds.
You can’t come up with an original idea unless you know what isn’t original. So read as widely as you can, both within your chosen area and beyond.
I write, and read, horror fiction, but I also read the classics, crime fiction, science-fiction, fantasy and the occasional airport blockbuster. I also read non-fiction, in the fields of astronomy, biology, parapsychology, archaeology, religious history and mythology.
Everything is grist to the mill, and little is ever wasted. If nothing else, it allows you to feel superior while watching “The Weakest Link”.
Deconstruct Writing that Works
When you read something that strikes you as a fine piece of writing, or something that has had success in your chosen area, go back and read it again. This time take notes:
What caught your attention about the writing?
What does the writer do that you don’t?
Would you have done it differently? If so, what makes what you’ve just read better?
You can also do this when you see bad writing. After a while, you’ll find yourself doing it automatically with almost everything you read. From the notes you can make up a list of writing tips for yourself. Add to it as you go along, read it often, and follow your own guidance. Improvements will follow.
You have to develop a thick skin, and an ability to look at your work dispassionately. After you’ve written something, put it away for a few days, then come back and look at it critically.
Cheque yure speling
Grammar your check
Remove any superfluous unnecessary adjectives
Remove any repeating repetitious repetition
Are your verbs will use the right tense?
If you are writing about a man, is she the right gender?
Never use a long word when a short individual will do
Hone your work until it is as good as you can make it. If you don’t respect your writing, how can you expect anyone else to do so?
Read your work out loud.
Reading aloud enables you to check the rhythm of your work. Check that your writing flows. If it feels uncomfortable to say it, it’s time to rewrite.
At the same time check your sentence lengths. If you need to take a breath in mid-sentence, then it probably needs editing. You might feel self-conscious at first, but stick with it. I’ve found this to be one of the best ways to find your writer’s voice.
Go on. Start now. You’ll feel the benefits immediately, and you’ll be a better writer for it. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?