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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 on:


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 inspirational.

*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 waters'!


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 like yourself.


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 101st submission!

*Tip: Don't leave that article or short story gathering dust in the bottom of the drawer. Send it off somewhere today!


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 excuses!

© Copyright 2002, Lynette Rees

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