In her latest Boundless Answers column, Candice talks about how to become a writer. Her sound advice includes an encouragement to just sit down and write, to read, to start a blog, and to pray.
Let me add some to her answer:
- Write what you know. And be honest about what you’re writing. Readers can discern when you’re being phony. A corollary: Use words within your vocabulary.
- Kill your beauties. You might have a few spots in your article that strike you as the height of poetic brilliance. These may have served to spark the idea for the article in the first place. But if they’re too distracting from the whole purpose of the article, it might be best to remove them.
- Try to be winsome, conversational, not preachy, engaging.
- Don’t rely on clichés, but look for fresh ways to communicate your ideas. Take a look at some of Chesterton’s writings — he had a way of making even the mundane seem fascinating.
- Edit your work, and consider asking someone else to provide you feedback on your work. While God may have inspired you to write something, it’s likely that your first (or even second or third) draft isn’t ready for publication.
- Balance hope and realism. It may take some time for your work to be published. If you sense the Lord’s leading you to share something through your writing, keep at it. It may suffice to publish it on your blog for now. The Lord in His timing may see fit to open bigger doors some day, but be content in seeing it be an encouragement to those few who visit your blog.
- If you’re wanting to have something of yours published in a particular magazine, spend time familiarizing yourself with their style and messaging.
- Tell stories. Chuck Colson says it best: “[S]tories well told can communicate truth in a way that didactic ‘telling’ does not, bypassing intellectual barriers to penetrate straight to the heart. Jesus told parables; earthly stories with a heavenly point. I firmly believe the best writing does the same.”
- Be vulnerable, within reason. We’ll tend to lend you our ears if we have feelings for you. But don’t exceed propriety; beyond a certain point, we just get to feeling uncomfortable with “too much information.”
- Don’t be cynical. Angst-laden cynicism is self-serving and a chore to read. It’s fine for your diary. It’s not fine to share with readers. It’s not “cool.”
- Consider the “take-away” — what do you want your readers to “take away” from your article after they’ve read it? You should be able to explain the take-away in a sentence or two.
- Show me, don’t tell me. Engage my senses.
- Rather than rely on adverbs and adjectives to add color to your article, use strong verbs.
- Reference specific things in your article, rather than vague categories. Instead of “eating a candy bar,” “munch on a Snickers.”
- If you are having a hard time writing on a particular subject, consider narrowing your focus. You may be better off, for example, to write about a specific brick than to write about an entire building
Some of you are writers. What would you add (or subtract) from this list?