Nine Things That Kill Writing

Writing can be a very tedious process. From the moment of researching to gathering suitable materials to sitting down for long hours with your writing pad to bleed alphabets, it saps a whole lot of energy from you. However, as painstaking as the process may be, how will you feel when all your efforts and sacrifices end up in the dustbin? Well, this is the reality of some writers. After piecing together beautiful ideas, some oversight can become a drawback to the success of your writing. This article will address some of those issues that impede the envisaged result of your writing projects. Some of those red flags are:

1. Use of too many adverbs and adjectives: another spoiler of your writing can be your unnecessary usage of adjectives and adverbs. Overusing these two parts of speech can tamper with your work’s grammaticality and make it difficult to comprehend. Words like suddenly, unknowingly, sadly, etc., should not be overused in your writing.

2. Subject-verb agreement flaws: to have a good writing, the subject and the verb in your sentences must agree with one another in number. If the subject of a sentence is plural, the verb must also be plural. If the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular. For example:

Incorrect: An important part of my academic success have been the teachers who taught me.

Correct: An important part of my academic success has been the teachers who taught me.

3. Omission of comma after an introductory element: infuse a comma after an introductory word, clause or phrase. This gives your reader a slight break, thereby injecting air into your writing to avoid confusion. For example:

Incorrect: In case you don’t know I am the founder of the company.

Correct: In case you don’t know, I am the founder of the company.

4. Lack of character motivation: this can pose a serious problem to many writers when considering the characters to use in your story. Define the role your characters are playing properly. Identify their aim, how they intend to achieve it, and the obstacles they will encounter. However, to make your writing more compelling, you may have to go deeper by providing a background or rationale behind his motive. For example, if you are writing a story about a studious student in a class, you can depict an instance of a student being embarrassed by his siblings for poor performance in an examination or a promise of a vacation abroad as the rationale behind his knack for reading.

5. Absence of a comma in a compound sentence: a comma is used to distinguish two or more independent clauses in a compound sentence separated by a conjunction. The comma usually comes after the first clause before the coordinating conjunction divides the clauses. For example:

Incorrect: Godsent jumped into a red truck and he drove away before being noticed.

Correct: Godsent jumped into a red truck, and he drove away before being noticed.

6. Putting more attention on word count: a lot of writers are guilty of this. Even though it is important you hit the expected word count of a project, it is wrong to water down the quality of your work with noise in a bid to meet your word count. Noise is anything that obstructs the flow of communication, and that includes filler words. It is better to convey the right message in lesser words than to confuse your reader with more words. Always choose quality over quantity when writing.

7. Inconsistent writing: the best way to master a skill is by doing it consistently, and writing is not an exception. You cannot write once in a blue moon and expect to be a master of the craft. Writing regularly also creates a bond between you and your reader. It makes you relatively part of their life. Furthermore, writing consistently can boost your competence and credibility as a writer.

8. Not having a niche: Avoid being like the proverbial Jack of all trades but master of none. As a writer, you are responsible for defining your speciality or beat and building on it. Do not jump on every genre of writing because it will make you play on the periphery of most but the main league of none. Know the broad category of issues that interest you and anchor your writing on a genre. Another plus to this is that you will gradually establish yourself as an authority in the space, thereby becoming one of the most sought-after writers in the space.

9. Absence of a compelling headline or title: your title is the signpost that leads your reader to the content of your work. Once you have a writing task, consider a suitable title or caption that will attract your reader to your work at a glance. To gain more insight on how to write a compelling headline or title, you can visit (visit where?). Consider your project as a meal you are preparing. Before one gets to taste your food, the aroma and the sight of the meal on the plate should whet the person’s appetite.

While some people find writing as an escape from their daily struggles, some have resorted to it as their source of livelihood. But whatever side of the divide you belong to, it is pertinent you pay attention to these minor details in your writing because, as minute as they may seem, they can erode your competence as a writer over time.

If you are interested in more ways to improve your writing skills, read here

How To Write A Movie Review

As a writer, you can be contacted to write a review on a blockbuster or a flop. As such, the onus is on you to hone your ability to think critically and watch movies beyond the conventional it was a great movie or a flop mindset.

Writing a movie review requires you to watch the movie more than once. This is because you are not watching the movie to relish it; rather, you’re watching with the aim of taking cognisance of every act, scene, dialogue, and monologue to help you write a review. Therefore, it is advisable to watch the movie with a notepad so you can take note of every detail and observation. However, here are some tips you can use to write a good movie review:

Begin with a compelling detail or opinion about the movie: this serves as the premise of your review. The idea is to grab your reader’s attention immediately. Your intro has to give the reader a feel of the movie. For example:

‘Despite a cracking soundtrack and an inspiring performance by Olumide, Late Last Night never gets past its weak plot and poor dramatic personae’.

‘Despite a growing agitation for same-sex marriage, not everyone understands its effects on our societal values like the characters of Flip Gender’.

Express your opinions and back up your criticism: some readers will rely on your review to decide if they should go ahead and watch the movie or save their precious time and money, so endeavour to give your thoughts and observations in your review. State why you are criticising an element in the movie and support your critique with valid facts. For example:

‘Flip Gender is a great movie that clearly mirrors the effects of same-sex marriage on our societal values. The characters, costumes, settings, and scenes made the movie worth viewing over and over again’.

‘It doesn’t matter how much you love politics, with Elections Day, you will be better off if you save your precious time and money doing something worthwhile’.

Create a thesis based on your findings: after thoroughly going through the movie, identify the unique insights you intend to bring to the fore. Come up with a central message or idea you want to highlight, and support it with some elements in the movie. This will move your review beyond a summary to film criticism. You can consider the following question to form the basis of the thesis for your review:

  • Does the movie portray or depict a contemporary issue? Is it the producer’s way of engaging in a wider conversation about an issue in public debate? Relate the film to a real-life situation.
  • Does the movie have a central message, or is the producer trying to wipe out public sentiment? Highlight if the movie has hit or missed its mark on either side of the divide.
  • Does the movie connect with you or the audience on a personal level or not? You can write your review based on your feelings or perception of the film. You can also infuse some personal experience into the review to make it more interesting to read.

Be concerned about your audience: consider who you are writing the review for. If it’s a third-party writing, create a balance between pleasing your client and your client’s audience. At Sabi Writers, we ensure we balance both. We take into consideration who our client’s audience is;  is it a national daily, box office, teen magazine, or fan site? Ensure your writing style and language is suitable for who you are writing for. Knowing your audience will help you determine the elements you should highlight in the movie.

Be armed with the cast portfolio: some people will watch a movie just because their favourite actor is featured in it. Spend a considerable time highlighting the performance of a veteran taking up a new role, the good performance of a rising star, and the brilliant performance of the cast despite a wishy-washy script. Spend a little time talking about the performance of the lead actors and whether they were able to do justice to their assigned roles or not. Commend the casts where they did well, mention where they were below par, and recommend how they could have done better.

Throw the spotlight on the directors, special effects, cinematographers, etc.: let your readers know the superb performance as well as the flaws of the directors, costume designers, makeup artists, cinematographers, etc. Highlight what they did well, where they astounded the audience, as well as where they disappointed the audience etc.

Avoid spoilers: as you are writing your movie review, remember that you are writing to propel people to watch the movie and not to ruin it. Give your readers an insight into the movie plot and strive to make a case for them to watch the movie.

Study other professionals: the importance of reading cannot be overemphasised in a writer’s life. Read other film reviews and observe what the reviewer did that you like and what you don’t like. Look for a leaf you can borrow from the reviewer and avoid the red flags you found. Read the publications you want your review to be published to serve as a template for writing your review.

Read and edit your work: your views on a movie will not be taken seriously if the cast names are not well-spelt. Ensure that actors’ names and the various locations you captured in your review are well-spelt. Check your work for grammatical and mechanical accuracy, and ensure your review is not devoid of organisational flow.

Hone your voice: every writer has a distinct and unique way of writing. However, finding your voice in writing does not happen overnight. So be deliberate about developing your own voice and style that will become the signature of your craft and keep your reader returning to your page.

A professional writer is expected to have a critical mind, so next time you watch a movie, be conscious of every element in the film and factor how you can critically analyse it for readers through your review.

However, if you need to write a movie review and you don’t have the time to do so, you can contact us at   +234 810 374 1847. Our team of writers will take the burden of writing off you.

Grammar Rules You May Have Been Overlooking

The English language can be very tricky. A word, phrase, or sentence correct in spoken English may not necessarily be suitable for written English. So do not be surprised that after all your years as a writer, there are things you still screw up in your writing.

Nonetheless, how do you guide against those grammatical errors you may not even be aware you’ve been making? Well, you should start by reading this article and identify the grammatical mistake that resonates with you most. Ensure you take note of the ones you are guilty of, or, better still, bookmark this page to serve as a reminder.

Their vs There

People often misplace these words. ‘their’ refers to a thing owned by a group of people, while ‘there’ refers to a place. So ensure you check that you are using the right ones in the right places and at appropriate times.

For example:

I heard their managing director is around

They’re going there in the morning

Your vs You’re

The contradiction between these is that the former emphasises ownership while the latter emphasises being something. ‘Your’ is in a possessive form while you’re is a contraction of ‘you are’.

For example:

How is your project going? Are you wrapping up?

You gave Folakemi your balance – you’re generous

Its vs it’s

A lot of writers are dribbled by these two. ‘Its’ is possessive while ‘it’s’ is a contraction of ‘it is’.  This can be particularly confusing because ‘it’s’ has an apostrophe, which often means something is possessive. But in this instance, it is a diminution or contraction.

For example:

A dog can be very protective of its puppies

It’s almost time for the meeting

Incomplete Comparisons

This one can make your writing look quite ridiculous. When you are making comparisons between things, it is important to state what you are actually comparing it with, not just stating the qualities that make it better than the other.

For instance:  

My car is better, faster, and stronger.

Instead, My car is better, faster, and stronger than Olumide’s car.

Whenever you make a comparison between two things or more, ensure you always clarify what you are comparing it with, else, it becomes difficult for your readers to decode what the comparison represents.

Hanging Modifiers 

This occurs when a descriptive phrase doesn’t apply to the noun immediately following it.

For example:

After diminishing for weeks, Uduak tried a new method to soar the company’s sales.

In the above sentence, it is difficult to ascertain what is actually diminishing. Is it Uduak? But in reality, the sentence said that the company’s sales were diminishing – not Uduak.  So to address this issue, reset the sentence structure:

Uduak tried a new method to increase the company’s sales after it had been diminishing for weeks.

Referring to a Brand or an Entity As ‘They’

It is imperative to note that a business is not plural; therefore, it should not be qualified with ‘they’. Use the word ‘it’ instead.

For example:

To keep up with their new management agenda, Sabi Writers rebranded in 2015.wrong.

This can be a bit confusing because, in English, brands and entities are not identified as ‘he’ or ‘she’, so ‘they’ seems to make more sense. So to put it right, the sentence will be:

To keep up with its new management agenda, Sabi Writers rebranded in 2014. – correct.

Possessive Nouns

Oftentimes, possessive nouns carry an apostrophe, but where you place the apostrophe can be quite confusing.

For example:

All of the dog’s hair grew back.

In the above sentence, ‘all’ implies there is more than a single dog, but the location of the apostrophe informs us there is just one dog. However, you can apply the general tips below to address this pitfall.

You can add the apostrophe after the ‘s’ if the noun is plural.

 For example, the dogs’ bones were all crushed.

Affect vs Effect

Most writers confuse these when they are implying that something is changing another thing. For example:

That book effected me profusely- wrong

‘Effect’ with ‘e’ is not used as a verb. Therefore, whenever you are talking about the change in itself, the noun to use is ‘effect’.

For example:

That book had a profound effect on me.

But when you are writing about the act of changing, the verb to use is ‘affect’.

For example:

The book affected me profusely.

Me vs I

Most English users understand the disparity between these two but default when using it in a sentence.

When you finish the book, send it to Chidimma and I.

Sadly, the sentence above is wrong, despite how appropriate it sounds.

How about you take Chidimma out of the sentence – It sounds absurd, doesn’t it? You will not ask someone to send something to ‘I’ when the person is done. It sounds absurd because ‘I’ is the sentence’s subject, and ‘I’ should not be used as the object. So in that situation, you should use ‘me’. For example:

When you finish the book, send it to Chidimma and me.

Like in every other language, English has its intricacies and tricks; while mastery is a work in progress, you can always get better than you were yesterday by reading articles like this and many others on sabiwriters.com/blog. You can also ease your stress by sending your manuscript to our professional editors to take care of it.

9 Amazing Books Every Writer Should Read

One of the most unsettling things a writer can say is that they have a phobia of reading other writers’ works. Some would even support their claim with the fact that reading other authors’ books is a self-indictment of their competence. They argue it makes them self-critical of their work or makes them complacent if they find the book below par.

However genuine these reasons may sound, as a writer, it is unpardonable to consume only your works. It is also an error to gauge your competence only based on your audience’s or clients’ feedback. Reading other writers’ work exposes you to other genres and styles of writing. It introduces you to new words, different narrative styles, and perspectives.

More so, reading helps you gather information and hypotheses that may become useful for your writing projects, as books remain one of the most sustainable ways of storing and obtaining information. Therefore, it is a disservice to yourself if you shun other writers’ work because you cannot tell how helpful the work may be.

By now, your mind is already joggling over some books you can read to improve your writing craft. Not to worry; in this article, we will recommend books you can read to improve your writing skills.

Here we go:

  1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: this beautiful piece is a must-read for every creative. The book is recommended for every writer who has lost his muse and needs inspiration, as it is a light that shines into a writer’s dark moment and pulls a creative out of his low ebb. Elizabeth was able to mix practical advice and mystical belief about the power of art and how stories can locate us when we are open to them. The book had inspiring chapters like Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity.
  • On Writing by Stephen King: this is one of the best memoirs on writing. It contains practical counsel and inspiration from one of the most renowned masters of the craft. His usage of personifications is highly commendable and engages your imaginative prowess without measure.
  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: this is one of the best books you can use to combat the forces holding you from performing your creative task. It will suffice for any creative field but since writing is Steven’s call, most of the instances he uses involve writers. Although some of Steven’s attitudes can be dated, his methods are quite sound and capable of pushing you to do the work you aspire to do, irrespective of the obstacles you may encounter.
  • A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf: sometimes, we think the processes that cumulate into a beautifully written work are always seamless. This sometimes leaves us discouraged with our own craft. But in this book, Woolf gives a view into the writer’s world of self-doubt, tedious revisions, poorly written drafts, and all the sweat that goes into producing a good book. This book will be very helpful in dispelling those encumbrances that a project throws at you.
  • Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman: Gaiman has continued to inspire budding writers with his collection of speeches and journalistic writings, which he condensed into a beautiful book. He encourages writers to keep writing because you only get better in the craft with consistent practice. He writes about how to manage failures and successes as a writer, which is imperative for every writer to be aware of. He addresses the usefulness of mistakes and how mistakes show that you are indeed doing something, which is the most important thing. Gaiman stresses the importance of making good art regardless of your circumstances. Make good art, as Neil Gaiman observes, whether it’s a bad day or a good day.
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: Lamott writes about the ‘Shitty First Drafts’, which I think every writer is guilty of.   The crux of this is that the first draft is usually filled with flaws which sometimes can dissuade you from pushing further. Lamott admonishes writers to write badly, get it down, and then improve it later. She reaffirms that it is only through this method that you will end up with good second and terrific third drafts.

The book also provides valuable insights on characters, plot, dialogue, and setting writing.

  • Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn: this book is helpful to writers who intend to publish their work and start earning from it as soon as possible. It has clear information on writing, and the author is credited with a series of independently published fantasy thrillers.
  • The Organised Writer by Antony Johnston: the book teaches how to function as a writer, how to efficiently juggle multiple projects and organise them properly on your folders, and the process of transferring them to your notes. As a writer, this can be very helpful in organising your projects and your writing space.

It is pertinent to note that it is difficult to succeed as a writer without drawing from other writers’ wealth of experience. However, it is also advisable to be conscious of the works you consume; choose to be more intentional about the choice of the books you read. 

How To Create The Perfect Villain For Your Story

Think of Voldemort in Harry Potter or tortoise in typical African folklores. These characters weren’t mischievous, wicked, naughty, heartless, etc. Some of the best stories you’ve probably read made you remember the bad guy; the authors made the bad guy stick in your head. They made you love to hate the bad guy, and that’s good. But what’s better is a villain that you feel bad for, and you hate the fact that you feel bad for him, but you just can’t help it.

What made the ‘guy’ bad was that he antagonised the hero. But, on the other hand, he is also good because he made your hero heroic – built and resolved the conflict. He is needed to build your plot; he is needed in your story.

When writing your story, you need to carefully create a compelling and an unforgettable villain that your readers will love to hate or hate to love, and some of the ways to create that perfect bad guy are;

  • Establish your villain’s driving force: you must be able to establish the motivation behind your villain’s actions. This will help you set their goals and even their personality. Your villain must have what drives his moves, his opposing views, and actions, as well as what he seeks to achieve in the end.
  • Be empathic to their course: to create a perfect villain, you must be able to wear their glasses to see things from their own perspectives. Consider how you react to the thorny issues of life, your temperament amidst provocations, and determine the emotions you attach to your villain.
  • Announce your villain with a hooker:  the way you introduce your villain in your story is important to forming your audience’s perception of him or her. The appearance, personae, and even the dressing of your villain can help create a malicious view of your villain from the onset.
  • Give your villain a unique power and ability: if you are writing a thriller or a fantasy story, it is important to attach some special ability to your villain. These abilities will help your villain explore the vulnerability of your hero and allow the villain to perform remarkable damage. Giving your villain specific powers helps to raise the bar of your story.
  • Define the character trait of your villain: this is very important in creating both the protagonist and the antagonist of a story. Before you sit down to write the plot of your story, Identify the character trait you want your villain to possess. Think of a simple word that can paint a perfect picture of your villain and build his actions and roles along that line. For instance, you can decide to depict your villain as a mischievous, evil, charismatic, manipulative, or quiet character. Give vivid details when describing because what you show will stick faster to your reader; that will determine how memorable your villain will be. Give little details like mannerisms, physical features, how they smack their lips, their eye feature, their cold stare, the scar on their face, movement of their nostrils etc.
  • Be careful of your language: You don’t want to make your villain sound too antagonistic with his words. Don’t give him a flowery language that sounds too mechanical and makes him completely different from other characters. Though you want him to be different, let him blend with his environment. You want your villain to be a product of his environment, so don’t reduce him to be fake or unreal. Let other characteristics reveal his personality. His demeanour or environment can reveal more than his speech.
  • Create a connection with your protagonist: Create an indissoluble bond between your villain and protagonist. You want your villain to help define the protagonist’s role by consistently opposing what he does. You may choose to cause a colossal damage that will become a reference point for revenge and shape the actions and inactions of the hero. The destiny of your protagonist and the antagonist in a story should be tied to each other.
  • Defined morality: You should have a veritable reason for your villain’s actions in your story. Suppose you make your villain destructive or have an insatiable appetite for killing and maiming people. In that case, he should have a strong reason for doing so. There must be a strong reference point for the decisions he takes and his perspectives on issues in the plot.
  • A deserving rival: Your villain must be a worthy rival to the hero. He must be strong enough to oppose the hero and difficult to be defeated. He must be able to stir tension in the hero’s camp and stake a claim to every damage done. A smart and highly intelligent villain will constantly keep the hero on his toes, stir his creativity and inspire his ingenuity.
  • Compelling history: Have an enticing back story capable of sympathising with his course. This further strengthens your character by showing the full scale of his journey in the plot and the circumstances that made him transform from a good guy to a bad guy or vice versa.
  • Infuse the fun element in a story: Life isn’t a bed of roses; nothing is in the state of perfection. Although the roles of villains are usually terrifying, their roles add fun and intrigue to the plot of a story. A perfect villain depicts some qualities we love to hate, whether his terror-induced humour or his nauseating views.

Creating a perfect antagonist is as important as creating a perfect protagonist. Your hero doesn’t have to win all the time; you can let your villain triumph in your story, or better still, flip the switch. Make the hero develop into the bad guy, and the bad guy change into a good guy.

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