Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I'm hijacking this week's post to share some very important writing advice for all writers. As I push through judging IGO Contest entries, I've noticed a few things. They remind me of staring at the ever-changing patterns of a kaleidoscope--different yet the same--for each entry.
The Craft of Writing
Like any craft, writing takes practice and requires a set of specific skills. Those skills must be learned and developed in order to complete a project of good quality. Some writers have a natural aptitude for some of the basics. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling fall into this category. Many (far more than half) of the contest entries I've judged over the past several years are weak in those areas. Even some published authors have a difficult time deciding where to put commas and how to punctuate dialogue. There, their, and they're cause lots of headaches, not to mention how to avoid misplaced modifiers and comma splices. What if grammar, punctuation, and spelling are weaknesses?
Invest in a resource library. It doesn't have to be extensive, but it should contain a Merriam-Webster or Oxford dictionary and at least one widely used style guide like Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). While these three areas are some of my greatest strengths, CMOS is my go-to guide for all grammar and punctuation questions. I refer to it on a regular basis. High school level handbooks, such as Writers Inc. and Plain English Handbook, are also very helpful.
Besides basic knowledge of grammar and punctuation, writers need to learn writing craft rules that apply to fiction. Point of view (POV), showing vs. telling, backstory vs. exposition, and goals, motivation, and conflict (GMC) are among the most important. These areas are linked to almost all other aspects of writing craft and, done correctly, provide a strong foundation for any story. How can writers learn and improve those skills?
Again, books on writing craft are a worthwhile investment. My Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Craft Handbook covers a lot of writing craft topics, while Debra Dixon's book on GMC focuses on a narrower one. Attend conferences, workshops, and online classes. Many RWA chapters offer monthly programs on a variety of writing topics. Kristen Lamb's Warrior Writer blog is an excellent free resource, as are other writing blogs.
Take time to expand your writing skills. Learn them. Practice them. Get feedback and improve.
Writing is a journey, not a destination.
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