Seven Deadly Sins of Writing
by Sandy Tritt
I've often said that writing is a spiritual endeavor. If
this is true, then it only makes sense that Good Prose must also have its
nemesis. And surely, the Devil of Rejection temps every writer with the
Seven Deadly Sins of Writing. They seem innocent enough-a misplaced comma
here, an adverb there-but soon the writer finds himself sinking into the
dreaded darkness of the Rejection Pile. Sadly, often the writer doesn't
even know he's been deceived. So let's reveal the Seven Deadly Sins of
Writing for what they are: Death to your manuscript.
I. Poor Grammar and Spelling. Surely, nothing screams
"amateur" as loudly as poor grammar and misspelled words. If your grammar
is poor, take a class at your local community college. These are usually
low-cost (and there is almost always financial aid or grants available to
cover all expenses) and will refresh your grammar skills. If your grammar
is decent, invest in a good grammar reference book and use it whenever you
are uncertain. See the Grammar Tips and Comma Usage Tip Sheets for help on
II. Telling, not Showing. We must act out our scenes,
through action and dialogue, in such a way that our reader feels that he
is experiencing the drama as it is happening. See the Show, Don't Tell Tip
Sheet for details.
III. Passive Voice. Using passive verbs, adverbs,
intensifiers, -ing verbs and unnecessary words suck the very life out of
our prose. For examples of how to make your prose as active as possible,
see the Keep it Active Tip Sheet.
IV. Purple Prose. Overusing adverbs and adjectives,
using cliches and euphemisms, and getting carried away with description in
inappropriate places is called "Purple Prose." It's a lot of fluff with
little substance. Instead of using an adverb to make a weak verb stronger
or an adjective to make a weak noun stronger, omit the adverb/adjective
and choose a stronger verb/noun. Instead of reusing phrases that you've
heard before, find fresh ways of saying things. Instead of using
euphemisms (attention: romance and love-scene writers!) for parts of the
body, use real words. Too much fluff is just like too much dessert-it
leaves us heaving. See the Tip Sheet on Creative Dialogue Tags for another
example of this disease and check out the Controlling Character Emotion
Tip Sheet for help in reducing the melodrama.
V. Repetitiveness. Not trusting our words to do their
job or not trusting our reader to be smart enough to understand our words
leads us to repeating ourselves. We change our wording, but still present
the same idea in a slightly different way. This redundancy kills our
prose. Say it Once, Say it Right!
VI. Point of View Breaches. Switching our viewpoint
character without warning, "seeing" or "hearing" things our viewpoint
character is not privy to, or switching from one type of point of view to
another disrupts the flow of our prose and jolts our reader. Sometimes the
reader isn't even able to state what the exact problem is, just that
"something isn't right." Always be aware of whose viewpoint you are in and
why. For more help on this subject, see the Tip Sheet Point of View and
VII. Lack of Persistence. Surely, giving up is the
deadliest of all the deadly sins. Writers who decide they "aren't good
enough" or "don't have time" to write will never be published. Writers who
fail to take advice and further their understanding of the writing craft
will never be published. And writers who accept rejection as defeat will
never be published. To quote my favorite uncle, "You aren't defeated until
you give up."
So, don't let any of the Seven Deadly Sins of Writing
kill your chances of being published. Read. Write. Study. Persist. No one
every said it would be easy, but if you have that passion in your soul,
nothing will stop you from succeeding. Go for it.
Want more great tips and techniques? Our
Inspiration for Writers
Tips and Techniques Workbook is now available. Expanded tips, more
topics, reproducible worksheets, exercises to practice what you learn and
much more--check it out! Free shipping anywhere in the United States.
(c) copyright 1999 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved,
except for those listed here. January be reproduced for educational purposes
(such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in
conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt
for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.
Go Back in Time!...
our new all - immersion Life of Jesus (Part 1) from David C. Cook
III. You'll become a true believer. Visit...
is dedicated to the memory of David C. Cook III.
This Just In Ė From Paul the Apostle
By Kurt Schuller
inspired work recreating
This is Dianne Ochiltree's
site for children, parents,
teachers and writers for
young readers. Dianne is an
author of books for young
readers (birth to teenage)
and she is also a children's
book reviewer. She's been
writing professionally for
over 25 years---about 18
years in public
and the last 7 years as a
children's writer. Dianne
has two books published to
date, with Scholastic and
with Simon & Schuster.
http://tritt.wirefire.com The Inspiration for Writers website offers help and encouragement to writers of all levels. Tips and Techniques give practical advice about frequent writing blunders. The Writer's Prayer, inspirational quotes, and essays about the writing life add insight and inspiration. The Fiction Showcase offers short stories for the reader's enjoyment. And, for those serious about improving their writing skills, manuscript critiques and coaching services are available. Visit http://tritt.wirefire.com today!
Publishing New Writers,
January, 2003 (no. 401)
Publisher Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.
Fax (847) 428-8974.
Submissions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Links are
To subscribe and/or review our archive of past newsletters, go to
Our Editorial Staff has expanded...
Rena Williams - Managing Editor
Helen Cook - Editor
Adam W. Smith - Editor
Linda Alexander - Editor
Neza Boneza - Uganda, Norway,
Dr. Karanam Rao - India
Ken Mulholland - Australia
The Shadow - Bahrain
Carl Fannen, England
Our Marketing Staff ...
Hartwell - Director of
Chris Cook, Ad Director
'Try.' - A four
Country Editor for
Great, you've finished!
words are written. The work is done.
A wave of satisfaction at seeing
your story to a conclusion sweeps
over you. All done. All in a torrent
of words. Writer's
Yet is it?
Done a spell-check? Sure.
A quick read through? Yes.
Ready to submit? No!
first rush of blood is over, it is
time to stand back and take a long
look. First at the
then at yourself.
In point of fact, far too many Submissions are put forward without
the most basic scrutiny by the most
important person at the time. You.
Fine. You are a young person, or someone older, ready to try your
hand at writing. And you are in a
hurry to 'get it out there.'
wrong with that.
But let's 'get it out there' without
the thing looking like a hasty
mish-mash of spelling errors,
repeated words and poor syntax.
Such a simple four letter word. (O.K, I lied. it's a three letter
word. Just as 'O.K' is also a four
letter word. 'Okay.' How do I know
I tried. (now it's a five letter word)
I looked it up. Where? Spell-check?
No, though there might be
information to be gained that way.
But not enough.
A Thesaurus? Another very useful tool. Especially if you have a
It can give you a variety of
substitute words to fill that
elusive void, and so too can a book
on synonyms and antonyms and even
homonyms. (Phew, I'm out of breath.)
But there is an old and very faithful friend. (Drumroll.)
'The dictionary.' (Triangle tinkle!)
Bit of a
No way. This is your own personal Entrance Door to Language and its
Got an ancient dictionary? Don't throw it out!
Just get a new, up to date one. They'll cosy up together. And
between them, will give you a broad
spectrum of what once was, and what
want to write, and ache inside with
that passion, then you are going to
have to learn to love language. In
other words, 'words.'
The language you speak, the way you communicate in your own
world is all of that.
As it is when you write.
And where can you find information on a whole gang of words?
A Dictionary can be a place to simply check spelling.
But, it can be more!
It can be a Thesaurus, if you are prepared to read and follow the
prompts. Not only written prompts,
but your own gut-feeling prompts
that send you searching through this
vast reference collection.
It can also be an Encyclopedia. Just
check out all the extra information
a good dictionary adds to the
meaning of each word.
And on top of that, a dictionary makes better reading than a
telephone book. (Sure, the phone
book has a bigger cast, but the
dictionary is more informative.)
And if you like a dictionary, and it
likes you, an important requisite
(is that the way it's spelled-I'll
have to check in the di...)
then all things are possible.
New words leap out at you, expanding your vocabulary, giving you a
greater impact in your writing,
enlarging the dictionary of your
and language on the whole, are
Think of a mind that can produce Coca-Cola, (1887.) Now go and
check out what those two words
originally meant. (did you know that
'cola' is also the plural of
Any word you can think of, in your language, is to be found in a
'Dictionary.' I wonder what the word
means. Better look it up.
'A book dealing with the words of a language, so as to set forth
their orthography, pronunciation,
signification, and use, their
synonyms, derivation, and history,
or at least some of these.'
Tolkien worked, in a team, on one
letter of the Oxford English
Dictionary. Remember? The author who
penned 'Lord of the Rings.'
But C.T. Onions was the 'Main Man' on the Oxford Dictionary.
And did he know his onions!
was a 'philologist' of standing.
Look it up. Don't be lazy and guess
or just ignore. You do want to
write? Then, O.K. (originally
initials of 'Old Kinderhook' U.S.
Near Albany.) Borrow or buy a
Webster's or an Oxford. Have it on a
side table next to your keyboard. I
know, a dictionary is heavy
artillery, but it's chock full of
ammunition. Takes too long to look
things up. It's too heavy to lug
around or even lift? Piffle. Learn
patience and grow muscles.
were going to threw him into goal.'
Spell-check would pick up 'Thiy' but
'threw' instead of throw? And
'goal'? What if he isn't playing
sport? What if he is about to become
Goal-gaol, jail. Both forms are correct, yet goal and gaol mean two
'TRY' A DICTIONARY.
I love a dictionary. Breakfast of champions.
An Encyclopedia of words.
Yes, the words you require to join
up the dots that will make your
writing better, and will make you a
of the Encyclopedia...Darn!
Ran out of time...
Lynette's creative Writing Website
(type both lines in one)
Read... Move Over Maharishi
By Dee Landerman
An ordinary housewife is catapulted into the unknown. For over twenty-five years with one foot in the other dimension, experiences visions, apparitions, and visits from the divine. As a Christian Intuitive with the ability to see into a personís spirit, she experienced first hand where the departed go.
She shares her life
openly with you, with the intent to
give answers and direction for you to
find power, peace and acceptance in
your own life. Dee reveals the ĎHeart
Of Godí about organized religion and
todayís churches, sharing Godís
concerns and desires for America and
Click here for more info...
Passion to Write
A Passion to Write
Life in a Refugee Camp
An Interview with Refugee Survivor Rais Boneza
by Rena Williams
Writing is a passion. The passion has to go deeper
than just ink on a sheet of paper or a voiced opinion. I believe Americans
fail to see the advantage of the freedom of press, or the freedom to
write. In Africa, in one mans heart and mind, the pen became his strength
and solitude in the mist of living in a refugee camp.
Rena: Were there books allowed in camp?
Rais: It depends. You would have to choose
the things you read carefully because they did not allow critics. Reading
in the camps was really dangerous. I use to do it hidden with my candle in
the dark room and hanged with fear. People around you in the camp did not
understand why you kept reading or writing when it rains anxiety, misery
Rena: Why was reading dangerous in the refugee
Rais: It was because they wanted people to
Rena: Who are they?
Rais: The UNHCR workers and the government.
Rena: What would be the penalty if caught
Rais: Kidnapping, prison without
Rena: Where there other writers besides you in
Rais: Yes, in the beginning, but after the
assassination of one human rights activist, all of them decided better to
die free and alone than jailed in camps.
Rena: Did you write while in camp? If so, what
did you write?
Rais: I wrote verses, poems, and stories
about or everyday life in camps. I wrote several stories about the
everyday life in camps and safe houses, my feelings, and tragedies. I
wrote about the two things we struggled with the most in camps, sadness or
But my first struggle was the language. My first
language is French language. Iím from a French speaking country. It was
necessary for me to learn and speak English, first. You know for writers,
language is our tool of works and I managed to learn English on my own, by
using old newspapers. From my country I brought with me more than a
thousand poems and a hundred short stories written in French. I
translated some which produced my Nomad anthology of poetry, which is
published on AuthorMe.com.
Rena: After learning the English language,
were there more struggles besides learning the language.
Rais: Yes, being accepted. I experienced a
type of censorship because of my situation of being a Nowhere man. But by
faith and hope I was accepted in the Ugandan Writers Association, and this
is where I published my first work, in English at the Makerere University
Faculty of Art and Literature.
Rena: Could you explain what is a Nowhere man?
Rais: A nowhere man is a man that had been
expulsed from his own country, which was in 1998 with the explosion of the
second war of liberation.
Rena: Did you publish after you escaped from
the Refugee camp, or while you where in it?
Rais: I did publish while in camps, but also
after I reached Uganda.
Rena: Could you explain the conditions of the
Rais: It rains anxiety in the camp. Sadness
is there ready to put you down and kill you. Sadness is the first killer
in the camp. Iíve written several stories about the everyday life in
camps and safe. My feelings and tragedies. In the camp people discuss
the news all the time. Men and women make love abusively. People did not
succumb to HIV, but from love.
Rena: Could you explain how you escaped?
Rais: No, Iím not ready to explain and
feel again that tragedy in me.
But, I will say, the biggest dream of any refugee
is to get out of this situation, but unfortunately that opportunity is not
given to everyone. There are people who give monies to get out, and
others who do not have anything, like my case, who just wait for the
Rena: Rais, thank you for sharing the
reality of true perseverance, strength and victory. And for sharing your
story with AuthorMe.Com.
Rais Boneza is a true author of strength and
perseverance. One who in spite of his conditions survived the dangers of
reading and writing while living in a refugee camp.
Acknowledge that any excuse, is no excuse, in spite
of your conditions, if you really have the passion to write.
Critiques by Sandy
Unlike most editors, I consider my role
to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I
explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how
to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat
business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other
Treat you with respect and compassion.
All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to
improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.
Mark your manuscript, correcting
grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where
Highlight areas that are especially
well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.
Where appropriate, offer suggestions for
plot development, character development or other areas that could be
Return a two-to-four page written
analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting,
characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks,
etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.
If appropriate, recommend reading or
resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.
Answer any questions you have via
Provide my telephone number for a
personal follow-up, if you desire.
For Sandy's success stories, see
Write Sandy at
(See Sandy's article above.)
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