By: Lydia Oyetunji
“Effective writing is not just about grammar and syntax. It must also have beautiful mountains and valleys – pristine vistas – and a fervor that reaches readers’ hearts causing them to keep turning the page.” – Author: Scott Biddulph
As a new writer struggling to find my niche, there are many aspects of the writing process that make me feel like a cat on a hot tin roof. This emotion is largely due to my lack of knowledge! There are so many rules and techniques for proper writing that I sometimes get confused. I remember bits and pieces of what was taught in school, but like the saying goes, “If you don’t use it you lose it.” So, here I stand in a dark tunnel, wind gusts up to 25 mph, and my only source of light is a match. Mere instinct and talent are not enough if you wish to excel. In my endeavor to be an outstanding writer, I constantly feel the need to study the craft, write and be critiqued.
Prior to doing research, if I were asked on the fly about “effective writing,” I would have been stumped; truthfully, I don’t know what my response would have been. Writing sites often advise writers to use “effective writing” techniques to gain readers. As a newbie writer, I was confused as to what these experienced writers meant by effective writing and how to properly apply these techniques to my writing style. Of course, I had the following questions:
- What is effective writing?
- How do I apply effective writing techniques to my writing?
- How will effective writing benefit me in my writing process?
Have you ever sat down to write what you thought would be a great piece only to finish and feel like it was incomplete? I felt that as I write this piece. I sat down to write this post for Two Drops of Ink and a tidal wave of words to inform the readers flowed nonstop. I thought… “wow- this is going to be a great piece, and I wrote it in one day” (patting myself on the back). But, when I read over the finished post, it sounded just, okay. The cake was baked, but it lacked flavor. I could not figure out what I needed to add even after reading over it three times. I emailed it to Scott, the editor. If I need an honest and critical opinion of my work, the editors of this site are the best. Scott advised me to “share my journey as a writer in a ‘Memoir Vignette’, which absolutely made sense, as an aspiring writer a post of this nature is more palatable if the writer can share their experience. So, I went back to the drawing board to revise, and revise again, until I penned a work of art that all aspiring writers can relate to.
The best definition I could find about effective writing was the following: “writing which has a logical flow of ideas and is cohesive. The words used create a beautiful union because there are links between sentences and paragraphs. The writing is cohesive and works as a unified whole, it’s easy to follow and uses language effectively to maintain a focal point in order to keep the reader interested.”
I felt that this was an awesome definition because as a writer seeking to be read, I desperately want to capture the interest of readers and convert them into a loyal following. If applying effective writing techniques is the skill that will help me to accomplish this task, then why not learn more. So funny, this article is my hands on experience with effective writing.
As newbies there are some basic steps we can follow to improve our effective writing skills:
- Gather and introduce relevant information regarding the topic. When conducting research or writing about a subject you’re familiar with, be sure to be clear and coherent.
- Keep it simple and to the point, so the reader stays engaged. Be careful not to go on a tangent! Refer to the article “Tangential Brains, Ideas, and The Left Turn At Albuquerque”.
- Use words that precisely expresses your thoughts. Stay clear of using unnecessary words and sentences. Keep in mind this is my second revision; I found sentences that I needed to omit once I added my experience.
- Understand when your writing contains “passive voice sentences”, adding strong verbs in active voice sentence structures shows confidence. Vague words kill great compositions! Which would you rather hang on your wall? The Mona Lisa or Dogs Playing Pool? My original draft was the latter.
- Pay close attention to grammatical errors. Paying attention to common grammar errors will allow for better sentence structures. See the article: Grammar Shorts: “If Your Sentence Is A Mess Check The Verb And Rebuild.”
- Giving your work the old “once over” is for amateurs; simple things like poor spelling or a word used out of context can lose your reader. Learning to read, re-read, revise, and edit are very important. Before you click ‘publish’, edit and proofread thoroughly. Two sets of eyes are sometimes better than one. You can adopt a test reader if you don’t have two awesome editors.
Does this seem like too much to learn? I felt that way as well, even after my research—jotting and organizing all my notes. Don’t be discouraged, sometimes those who have been writing for years need to brush up on their effective writing skills. What I have found while researching the writing process is a new respect for my readers, and the art has helped me tremendously. Humility, when it comes to those who edit my work and provide constructive criticism, is an awesome way to learn. I always apply the tips and advice they extend, gradually mastering many new skills.
Writer and editor Marilyn Davis advised me on effective writing stating, “Writing is an act of courage. We know that there are those who read our posts and criticize our content, grammar or syntax. We know there will be others, who use their power to give us a thumbs down or a dislike. We know that some will comment and say mean, nasty, ugly things to us. But we don’t care. We take their critiques and improve. We ask, ‘What did you dislike and how could I have written it better?’ We review the graphs on FB or other sources and notice that there aren’t any red dislikes this week and get encouraged.”
Marilyn voiced exactly how I feel as a new writer and my fear of the hurtful and discouraging comments and feedback. I forge ahead because I have found that “Writing Hurts, Get Used to It!!! Writing is not for the faint of heart. I walked away with the knowledge that my grammar, syntax, and research may be spot on, but if my composition lacks beautiful mountains and valleys, then I didn’t delve deep enough within myself to properly gain the readers interest. Stay motivated and keep writing; with hard work and due diligence, we can become great writers. Continue to accompany me on the journey toward literary greatness!