Have you ever fell asleep reading a book because the author has bored you with a lack of action?
Has the author’s drudgery made you wish you’d never picked up the book and started reading in the first place?
Worse, does this describe your own writing? Are you unable to read your own words because they even bore you to sleep?
Fear not! Every writer at some stage cringes at what they’ve written. It’s actually a good sign because it’s a sign of progress. You know how good writing should look and sound, hence the cringe.
As a writer, I’ve certainly been through the ‘I can’t believe I wrote that’ phase. They still happen, but thankfully far less often than when I began writing my first book, The Golden Chalice, in 1998.
As director of DoctorZed Publishing, I also see a lot of cringe-worthy manuscripts submitted by writers. I see a lot of excellent writing too, but the difference between the good and the poor is not always that great. Sometimes it comes down to just a few simple tweaks.
Saying that, some of the best advice I can give any writer hoping to get published is:
- Ensure you get a professional editor to assess and edit your manuscript before you submit it.
- Know who your ideal readership market is.
- Never give up—write, write, and keep writing.
- Set yourself writing goals and keep yourself accountable to achieving them.
- Have an internet presence—at a minimum, have an author website, use social media (especially the social media in which your identified readership market is using), and blog as much as you can. You can be rest assured your publisher will Google your name.
- Aim to always improve your writing—become a master of your craft, a raconteur. Why not?
Now, though, I’d like to just focus on the fifth point: aim to always improve your writing. In particular, I’d like to address the one thing that can really make a difference to making your writing come alive, and this is just as relevant to non-fiction writers as it is to fiction writers.
It’s a simple tweak that I call ‘verbalizing‘ your words. This doesn’t mean reading your words aloud, although that is a good thing to do, especially if you’re considering narrating an audiobook from your manuscript.
‘Verbalizing’ your words means adding action to them. A verb, of course, describes action. The beauty of a verb is that it infuses the sentence in which it’s used with life.
Take for instance this dull and dreary sentence: In the centre of the room was a fireplace.
Now let’s liven it up and ‘verbalize’ it to make it spring to life:
She flung open the door and raced over to the fireplace in the centre of the room, its flames instantly thawing her frozen fingers.
This simple tweak is quite powerful for a couple of reasons:
- Firstly, as we saw, it infuses the sentence with action. It brings it alive with words such as flung, raced, thawing.
- Secondly, it adds a sense of the urgency of the moment. As a reader, you can empathize with her situation and her need to quickly get to the fire.
- Thirdly, the reader can get a glimpse of the emotion behind the action. Does she wander over to the fireplace, implying a calm and collected demeanor? Or does she rush, implying a desperation to get over there?
With just some minor adjustments, we’ve added action, empathy and emotion into our sentence. And we haven’t even mentioned sounds, smells, tastes, or sensations.
As a writer, it’s your duty to paint a picture with words. But it’s not a static picture you’re painting. The best-written pictures are active ones, the ones infused with life.
The ones that are ‘verbalized’.
*This article first appeared on ContentPlexus.com and is re-published with permission.
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