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The Seven Deadly Writing Sins
by Lynette Rees
What are they? And how can they hold a writer
back? We need to identify each one and find out how to counteract them. Now read
The Sloth is a lazy, slow, undisciplined
person, who has a tendency to put things off. A procrastinator. Ever found
yourself saying: "I'll write that article tomorrow."? When tomorrow arrives,
it's put off for another day and another. How many times have you spoken to
someone who is full of good intentions? "I've always wanted to write a
book...", or "I've thought about writing short stories." But when you ask them
why they haven't done so? They reply that they just don't have the time.
There's always an excuse. Yet, they find time to do other things.
* Tip: To write that best seller/article/short
story, you may need to get up an hour earlier each day, or stop watching so
much television. Commit your ideas in writing, then create a wall chart and
tick off your writing goals one by one. It's amazing the sense of achievement
you will feel as each goal is completed.
The impulsive writer rushes in without much
thought. By doing so they may forget the golden rule when sending out a
submission: to study the guidelines first. Word count is essential. If a
magazine asks for an article to be an 800 word maximum, then they are hardly
likely to accept a word count of 1200, except in rare circumstances. The
impulsive person may not take the time to read through their article/short
story properly. The submission may end up peppered with grammatical errors.
This can be enough to put an editor off, no matter how good the article is!
*Tip: Read guidelines properly and stick to
the required word count. Find out if the editor requires you to submit a query
letter first, before wasting your time sending off the whole article. Study
the style and content of the magazine/web site to have an idea of what type of
person is reading it. Spell check, and look out for punctuation errors before
submission. Prune out any unnecessary words.
With the predictable writer, you know what is
coming next, there are no surprises. An editor may have received hundreds of
submissions on the topic of "How to cope with rejection", but if he received:
"Ten wonderful things you never knew about rejection", he may be more likely
to notice your article and publish it. A Short story where the outcome is
certain from the outset is dull, but one where the reader thinks: "I would
never have thought of that happening at the end!" is exciting and
*Tip: Be bold, be creative, use your
imagination, and avoid cliched writing at all costs.
I bet you don't know what that word means do
you? This: the use of pompous or inflated language. How many times have you
put down a book because it was overly descriptive? Frankly, it can be an
insult to the reader's intelligence. Give us the opportunity to use our
imaginations too! In other words: less is more. In addition to being too
descriptive, wordy language can be off putting. Imagine having a dictionary
next to you to make sense of the book you are reading?
*Tip: Keep it simple. Why use long, unusual
words, when every day ones will do? The message is important, not every little
detail of a character's mode of dress, and eyes like 'deep, limpid blue
The inferior writer feels inadequate and
compares him/herself to other writers. They have a low self-esteem. He or she
may not see their work as worthy of publication. It could be something from
their past that is making them feel that way. Their minds may be programmed
with negative messages from childhood. They can't for the life of them see how
anyone would publish their work.
*Tip: Join a confidence building course and/or
have cognitive therapy to reprogram those negative messages. Being part of a
writer's group may help you realize that there are other writers who are just
Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of
editors. The fearful writer fears just about everything! Fear stops people
accomplishing things. It is better to have received 100 rejection slips than
not to have submitted anything at all. Who knows you could be lucky with your
*Tip: Don't leave that article or short story
gathering dust in the bottom of the drawer. Send it off somewhere
Okay, so your writing tools may not be the
sharpest in the box, you may only be able to afford paper and pen, but that's
no excuse! How many people have expensive word processors and/or computers but
make little use of them? Who knows in time you may be able to afford a type
writer of your own. Don't have the time? Novelist Stephen King, had the idea
for one of his best sellers after waking up from a dream on a transatlantic
flight. He quickly wrote down his ideas on a paper napkin, then turned his
idea into a best seller! Who says you have to write at a desk all the time?
I've written in cafes, on buses, and in waiting rooms.
*Tip: If you don't have the equipment, then
borrow it from a friend or relative. Ask if you can make use of their
typewriter or computer. You can pick up an old second hand typewriter quite
cheaply these days. The local library or college may give you free access.
Failing these options you may be able to persuade someone to type up your
short stories/articles for a small fee.
Now that we've identified the Seven Deadly
Writing Sins and what to do about them, what's stopping you? Nothing, unless
you're a predictable, inferior, impulsive, fearful sloth, who uses grandiloquent
© Copyright 2002, Lynette Rees
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