Tag Archives: How to improve your writing

Writing Changes


For two years, I have been working on a first novel. In April, I took time off from life and hid out far from home and distractions and finished the first draft. Since then I have been editing and getting some professional input. There is, at last, light at the end of the tunnel.

In revising the work, I noticed that my writing/ storytelling abilities improved from the first chapters through what followed. It’s subtle, but there. And it makes me smile.

Smile? Yes.

It means this old dog is learning new tricks after all. It means there’s hope for any writer to make his work better by investing the time and energy to make it so. It means that maybe, just maybe, I will produce a story that entertains, engages, intrigues the reader. It means, maybe, I can sell a book or two.

Smile? Yes.

It means I can writer another book. In my head I am already three-quarters of the way done with the next plot. And the third is percolating there, awaiting its time. And the fourth.

Smile? Yes.

I didn’t know I had it in me to write more than one novel. I’ve learned I do. And I want to.

The Value of a Sidekick


Thank you, Wretched Richard’s Almanac, (http://richarddaybell.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/wretched-richards-almanac-5-7-13/) for providing the inspiration for this post.

Authors are loners of sorts. We tend to write books in privacy.

Yet, to improve or validate our work, we need helpful others. The helpful other, like the sidekick in the old-time western film, provides a counter-point to our own perspective about our work. A sidekick will read our story and truthfully dissect it for us to make either the story or the author better.

A valuable sidekick is, above all, a truth-teller. It takes a brave person to tell a creator that his creation is flawed. A sidekick is also a diplomat; The truth-telling, to be effective, must be done tactfully. Finally, the sidekick must be knowledgeable. Effective criticism comes out of taste or expertise garnered through experience. If the sidekick is an avid reader in our genre–and has an artist’s soul of sorts–he discerns when a story works or doesn’t. Because our sidekick is intelligent, he can articulate  the “why” when the manuscript fails.

I feel fortunate to have three sidekicks to give me the necessary kick-in-the-pants I need to improve my work. Sometimes I am obstinate and ignore sage advice. It is to my own detriment when I do.

A valuable sidekick is trying to make my writing better. That, to an author, is a priceless gift.

The Lessons in Bad Writing


Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe author Karel Henneberger sent me an article that reinforced a valuable lesson: you can learn something from reading bad writing. The article’s author Daphne Gray-Grant tells of  learning that lesson from a former boss in a roundabout way. Gray-Grant is a professional editor, so she’s read an abundance of both good and bad work.

The basic points she drives home to writers are these:

  1. Good writers make just about every sentence meaningful. Bad ones waste effort on recording every cup of tea their characters swallow.
  2. Bad writing highlights the kinds of mistakes we don’t want to make. It’s one thing to know we shouldn’t overuse adjectives. It’s another to read a plethora of sentences like this one: “The wearily handsome, nervous, stubble-chinned man slowly and carefully got out of bed when he heard the soft, mysterious sound of footsteps
    in his apartment.”
  3. Bad writing is a reminder that good work always requires effort.

The moral of the story: finish that bad book you’re reading. Use it as a tool to spot the things not to do in your own stories.