As you must realize by now, there is a proper tool for every job, and that includes the job of writing. So, if your goal is to communicate effectively with your reader, you must master the use of descriptive language, as well as spelling, punctuation, and grammar – as well as flow and clarity. Without these foundations of written communication, your work will be just another piece that’s heaped on the pile of creative refuse that’s grown beyond our ability to imagine.
Structure matters – especially in your narration
Communicating through the written word requires far more structure than you’ll find in casual speech or storytelling. Because the reader does not have the physical tools available for interpretation we all enjoy when face-to-face with a speaker, your story must be structured in a way that allows them to interpret your meaning clearly. The distractions caused by errors in your writing will not only diminish your audience’s enjoyment of your work, they will very likely miss the larger meaning, if you offer one.
Make sure your story contains a beginning, middle, and end.
Use declarative sentences and avoid using the passive voice.
Use active verbs and avoid “to have” and to be” descriptions.
Avoid clichés and idiom in your narrative.
Use simple rather than complex terms, and avoid convoluted descriptions.
Keep in mind the average education level of your target audience.
Read, read, and read – You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader.
These “rules” apply to your narrative. When you create dialogue however, you can pretty much toss these out the window, as long as you keep them in mind for the descriptive text that surrounds your dialogue.
In fact, the use of idiom, colloquialisms, and jargon can make your dialogue far more powerful. Use these tools to help illustrate the difference between characters, without resorting to telling your audience why they are different.
Resources for writers
Some great sources of information on structure, grammar, punctuation, self-editing and proofing your work can be found among the sources listed here:
The Little, Brown Handbook – easily the most used textbook on writing ever offered. A must-have for any serious writer.
On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft – by Stephen King worldwide best seller of more than 50 novels.
The Little Book of Self-Editing – by Bridget McKenna, especially valuable for authors who self-publish.
Right Writer® Writing Analysis Software – a surprisingly inexpensive editing program that offers line-by-line alternatives to the choices you’ve made in your writing.
Word Web – a free dictionary and thesaurus you can keep right on your computer desktop.
The Readability Test Tool – a free online tool you can use to check the level of education required for a reader to understand your writing.
I’ve also found a great resource for emerging writers of every type: fiction, articles, blogs, and more. Writer’s Digest – is a website and magazine by writers, for writers, that offers tons of information for your research, writing guides, publishing guides, and other writing tools.