Thursday, November 13, 2014

Writing with Excellence

by Andrea Merrell @AndreaMerrell

New writers want the answer to HOW to be
a simple 1-2-3 formula.
Many times I have been asked these questions from new writers: 
  • How do I get started? How do I know I’m on the right track? 
  • How can I possibly learn everything I need to learn? 

There are no simple 1-2-3 answers, but my best advice is to start at the beginning.

The First Step
Except for occasional writer’s block, putting words to paper or fingers to the keyboard is generally the easy part. Writing for publication is the hard part, but it can be done with time, study, and determination. You just need to know the rules and guidelines.

In the movie Finding Forrester, Sean Connery’s character (a famous author who has become a recluse) gives this advice to an aspiring young writer: “No thinking. That comes later. You write your first draft … with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is … to write, not to think.”

Great advice, but that being said, the second key to writing should be to think.

Use your time wisely when you're editing.
If you’re a natural editor, getting your entire story on paper without constantly going back and making corrections will be difficult. Perfectionism is not your friend (at least at this point). It can keep you working on the same few chapters for months, even years, without finishing your book. If this is a problem for you, politely, but firmly, tell your inner editor to be quiet or take a vacation so you can finish writing. When you’re in the zone and words are flowing (some writers call it word dump), you don’t want to stop the flow to make sure all your words are perfect. There will be plenty of time for that later. As you continue with the story, you’ll make lots of tweaks and changes, and you don’t want to keep going over and over the same ground.

Your writing time is valuable. Use it wisely.

The Second Step
Once you have your words on paper or safely tucked away in your computer, it’s time to start the editing/re-writing/proofreading process. If this is difficult for you, go back over your material and read it aloud. Read it slowly. You’ll be amazed how much this little exercise will help you. Chances are you’ve read it so many times your eyes will skip over obvious errors. By reading aloud, you’ll get a better feel for syntax and sentence structure. If possible, have someone else read it to you and listen carefully as they read. Software programs are available for your computer that will read text, and some are free. Google “Computer Reading Programs” for a list of options.

Getting feedback from others is always beneficial. Every writer needs a writing partner, critique group, mentor, or a professional editor.

The Third Step
Most of all, keep writing!
Keep learning, growing, and—most importantly—keep writing. Make the investment to attend writers’ conferences. This will not only teach you the basics and sharpen your skills, it will help you build a network with other writing professionals. If you’re having trouble in a certain area, there are countless books and online resources available on every possible subject. You can also sign up for blog posts from other writers and editors that will be filled with helpful information.

Don’t get discouraged by rejection letters, negative feedback, or other obstacles that try to derail you. If God has called you to put words on paper, He has a plan and purpose for those words. Keep polishing your manuscripts until they are as clean and professional as possible.

Does that mean your work will ever be perfect? No, probably not. Perfection is something we can spend all our time pursuing and never reach. Instead, strive for excellence in all that you do, which means doing the best you can with what you have.

(Excerpts taken from Murder of a Manuscript by Andrea Merrell, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.) 

Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC). She is also a freelance editor and has led workshops at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, Writers Advance Boot Camp, and the CLASS Christian Writers Conference. Andrea’s first book, Murder of a Manuscript, is available on Amazon. Her next book, Praying for the Prodigal, will be released by LPC in 2015. As an editor, Andrea’s passion is to mentor and encourage writers, helping them to polish their manuscripts and make them as clean and professional as possible. To learn more, visit or

1 comment:

  1. Good post, Andrea. I am sharing it on Twitter! Hugs, Elva Cobb Martin