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Overcoming writing weaknesses: Editor's Notes #256
March 07, 2018

Writing a book is like rearing children
—willpower has very little to do with it.
If you have a little baby crying in the middle of the night, and if you depend only on willpower to get you out of bed to feed the baby,
the baby will starve.
You do it out of love.
Willpower is a weak idea; love is strong.
You don’t have to scourge yourself with a cat-o’-nine tails to go to the baby. You go to the baby out of love for that particular baby.
That’s the same way you go to your desk.

—Annie Dillard

In this issue:

1. Overcome your writing weaknesses
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1. Overcome your writing weaknesses
Everyone needs to overcome writing weaknesses, but how?

You may have heard of the 10,000-hour benchmark for achieving excellence. On the strength of that teaching, you may just keep on writing, doing the same thing over and over. This only strengthens your weaknesses unless you intervene to change your practice.

You may already know what some of your weaknesses are, and if that’s true, what follows may help you to laser in on them and reduce their presence in your writing.

Most of us need others to point out our weaknesses, and what to do about that ends this article.

In either case, write down what your weaknesses are and address each in a separate pass through your text after you are finished writing your first draft.

Here are the most common writing weaknesses I see as an editor, along with possible interventions.

Overuse of specific words or phrases. Fix this by using the Find feature in your Word processor to hunt them down. The take out any that you can.

Overuse of certain sentence structures. The most common of these is beginning the sentence with an -ing word, followed by any modifying clause followed by a comma. If you use commas correctly, you can use Find to search for commas. If you aren’t secure in your use of commas, read your work aloud, listening for how your sentences begin.

Assuming the reader knows everything you know. This is harder to catch yourself if this is a true writing weakness. Another reader is more likely to discover this trait.

Not trusting readers. This is the flip side of assuming the reader knows everything. Once you have told a reader something, trust the reader to remember. One subset of this is showing and telling the same thing. Bert was sad. He hung his head and cried. This calls for close reading. Read one paragraph and ask yourself if you are trusting your reader or repeating yourself. When that paragraph is fixed, move on to the next.

Let’s face it. If you knew what your weaknesses are, you would probably be fixing them. Get the benefit of a professional look at your writing. My educative edit takes you through an intense study of a brief piece of your work. Under my guidance, you learn to deal with your weaknesses yourself. Writers who undergo this process clean up their writing, feel more secure in what they are doing, and speed up the time it takes to get to a good manuscript. It costs only US$20 for a sample, and often the sample is all you need.


2.Tickled my funnybone
Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies and they all wrote in hydraulics.


3. Interesting Web site
The list of prizes on the page linked here was compiled for writers from British Columbia, and it reflects that geography. There are micro and macro awards on the list, which opens with the Man Booker prize, open to all writers of English as long as the book is published in the UK or Ireland. I commend to you the Governor General’s Literary winners lists that include fiction, non-fiction, young people’s literature, poetry, and drama. These lists represent literature accepted as excellent and make for good models to follow. (Not that I love them all, but they are worth consideration.)

4. Writing prompt
This time, I’m passing on an interesting prompt I found online. Enjoy.

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