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Top Ten Tips (Part 2)
by: Elaine Currie

Golden Rules For New Writers - Things you need to know before you begin.

Rules govern everything we do in life; even if those rules are of the
unwritten kind we abide by them and expect other people to do the same.
Why should writing be any different? It shouldnít be and it isnít. The
following rules are the basis for good writing. If anyone tries to tell you
that rules are made to be broken, remember that you have to learn those
rules before you try to bend them or break them otherwise you are just
being sloppy, not radical.

If you missed Part 1 of this Article, you can read it in its entirety at my website:

Spell well

You need to be able to spell in order to write properly. If punctuation is
the putty in your windows, spelling is the bricks out of which your house
is built. If you donít have bricks, you cannot build yourself a house. You
will probably find this hard to believe but spelling used to be taught in
schools in the olden days. Nowadays most people who write do so on a
word processor with a spell check function. It is apparent that many of
these people do not bother to use their spell checker. This sort of
laziness cannot be excused. At the same time, you should not rely entirely
on the spell checker: it is only a machine trying to guess what word you
have scrambled. If you are not sure about a word, look it up in a
dictionary: it never hurts to know the correct meaning of words as well as
the correct spelling. Never forget that spell check will take your words
out of context: if you type "He sold his soul to Santa", you canít blame
the spell checker for not knowing your really meant "Satan". People
would snigger cruelly if you failed to correct this.

Keep to the point

Never make the mistake of padding out your writing with unnecessary
or irrelevant details. Keep to the subject announced in your title, after
all, the title is probably what attracted the reader in the first place. If the
body of your work does not relate to the expectation aroused by the title,
the reader will feel tricked and nobody likes that feeling - your
reader will move on to read somebody s/he can trust. Do not attempt to
pad out your writing with unnecessary words: inserting a few adverbs or
adjectives to boost the word-count never works and makes the article
difficult to read. Keep it simple, whether people are reading for pleasure
or enlightenment, they will not appreciate lumpy prose and they are not
reading your work to marvel at your cleverness or your vocabulary. If
you run out of things to say before your work is the length you wish to
achieve, you are writing on the wrong subject or from the wrong angle.

Read and revise

Boring but essential. However much we enjoy the writing process,
reading the end product over and over and making changes is not what
we want to be doing. We would rather be starting the next article which
is bubbling up in our brains but we have to read, re-read, revise and revise
again. It is easy to make mistakes particularly if you have written
something over a long period . If you do not correct your mistakes
before publication, you will lose the trust of your audience. (I never got
over the fact that one of my favourite authors accidentally changed the
date of birth of a main character half way through a novel. How could I
ever believe in his people if they had moveable birthdays?) If you were a
carpenter, you would not offer your customer an unfinished piece of
furniture. If you were a tailor you would not offer your customer an
unpressed garment. The author should not dream of offering the reader
an unpolished piece of writing.

Sleep on it

Donít be in a rush to publish your work the minute it is finished. Let it
rest. If it is ready for publication, it will still be ready tomorrow but, if it
is not quite ready, you will have given yourself a chance to make a final
amendment. This is particularly relevant when you are writing shorter
things. If you have spent months redrafting a novel, you are likely to
know if you have satisfactorily completed the final draft but it is easy to
knock out and send off short items such as articles or letters and then
regret our haste. There is always scope for improvement and what looks
like a work of art in the evening glow, might not appear so well in the
cold morning light.

Pay attention to detail

If you do not pay attention to detail, you will not discover your errors and
there will be plenty of people out there who will be delighted to pick out
and highlight the smallest error. Some people just canít help themselves:
it is the way they are made (the way I react when a menu offers me a
choice of "Saladís" - saladís what?). Other people are just waiting to see
you trip yourself up. Donít give them the satisfaction: get things right
before they start pointing and you will have the last laugh. If you have
realised that this paragraph is number eleven of my top ten and are already
laughing - Well Done! If you did not notice - see what I mean?

About the author:
This is one of a series of articles
published by the author, Elaine Currie, BA(Hons)
The authorís monthly newsletter is available free

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