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

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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10 Tips On How To Improve Your Writing Skill

The act of writing is almost as old as humanity itself. Throughout history, there has been a constant search for the most sustainable means of encoding human feelings and experiences. Scribbling letters on a template has proven to be a sure and sustainable way to achieve that.

Writing provides an escape route to the transient nature of oral tradition. It also serves as the conveying belt for transferring history from one generation to another. Writing breaks the distance between time and space and has found a permanent seat in all human endeavours.

But just like every other craft, some people have taken it upon themselves to explore the act of writing holistically and have conferred on themselves the revered title of PROFESSIONAL WRITERS.

To these people, writing is the brook that feeds their economic value. As such, they are deliberate about every detail of the letters they tabulate on their slate.

This article is addressed to this esteemed set of people, as well as every other person who is incubating the dream of playing in the writers’ league.

TEN WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING SKILLS

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR BRIEF: Before you embark on any writing exercise, you must first have a full grasp of the project. Have a clear understanding of the message you intend to pass or what you want to address in your writing. Carry out detailed research on the subject matter you are writing. You can do this by asking questions, conducting interviews, doing crowdsourcing, and administering questionnaires if possible to gather relevant information and data. Having a good insight of your brief helps you avoid producing a shallow write-up.

2. KNOW AND ANALYSE YOUR AUDIENCE: One of the banes of successful entrepreneurship is production without understanding your consumers’ demographic and psychological makeup. As a writer, you should see yourself as an intellectual entrepreneur. Therefore, before you embark on the production of your intellectual property, ensure you study and analyse the demographic and psychological composition of your target audience or readers. Know who your audience is. Understand their scope of reasoning so that you can meet up with them.

Any writer who trivialises the variables of age, educational background, economic status, location, religion, etc., of his audience may succeed in writing write a bestseller, but to the wrong audience.

3. CAREFULLY SELECT YOUR CHOICE OF WORDS: Words are the brush with which a writer paints pictures on his reader’s mind. They are the drivers of a writer’s message. After having a full grasp of your brief and establishing your audience, the next step is to choose the right words that will enable your reader to decode the content of your message easily.

 Another twist to this is to avoid coming off as being saucy and apathetic in your writing. This is important, especially when the subject matter you are addressing is sensitive.

4. USE THE ACTIVE VOICE: The most potent way to make your point is by using an active voice. This voice adheres to the subject-verb-sentence structure. This makes your writing more exciting. In addition, it creates shorter and less complex sentences, making it a stronger way of presenting your information.

5. USE SHORT PARAGRAPHS: Short paragraphs infuse air into your writing. It keeps the pages from appearing cumbersome. Each paragraph should contain sentences that buttress the same idea. Lengthy paragraphs are less appealing to read and make the page layout congested.

6. BE CONVERSATIONAL AND NATURAL: Writing is the documented version of your conversations. Therefore, your writing should have your personal touch in tone and voice. It should be friendly without watering down the gravity of the subject matter. Infuse your genuine thoughts and strive to abstain from clichés.

7. BE PRECISE: Avoid sounding superflux in your writing. Instead, let your message be clear and as concise as possible. Remove unnecessary adverbs and prepositional phrases and deliver your message succinctly.

8. EDIT YOUR WORK: No matter how impeccable a write-up is, there is always room for improvement. Proofread your work to ensure that all forms of errors and misrepresentations of ideas and facts are reduced to the barest minimum. Make sure to cross-check your work. You can also take a step further by engaging the services of professional editors.

9. READ OTHER AUTHORS: It is difficult to pride yourself as a writer without reading other writers’ works. Read other writers who have proven their grit in the craft, especially those who share your writing genre. There is always a leaf or two to borrow from them. More so, readinghelps you gain new perspectives and insights and exposes you to diverse writing styles.

10. KNOW WHEN TO TAKE A BREAK: Writing is a tedious mental process. Sometimes you may get burned out. To manage the stress and the mental demand of the craft, it is advisable sometimes to take a pause and focus your energy on other activities of interest. You can watch a movie, travel, swim, etc. Taking a break will not only help you reinvigorate but will also widen your horizon and help you gain new insights.

If you found this article helpful, leave a comment. You can follow us on our social media pages @sabiwriters.

Five Ways Accents and Dialects Help A Fiction Story

Dialects and accents are potent tools writers use to infuse life into characters in a story. As a writer, you may use dialects and accents in dialogues to portray a character’s origin, societal status, cultural background, educational level, and even professional affiliations. However, it is essential to use these writing tools appropriately to avoid bruising your reader’s ego, which may come off as offensive.

In our daily conversations with people, we can easily use the way a person speaks or pronounces certain words to ascertain the tribe and race he belongs to. For instance, in the Nigerian setting, when a writer wants to depict a character from any of the major ethnic groups in the country, he carefully considers the dialects and accents to attach to the character based on the selected ethnic group. This makes it easier for the reader to connect to the story by staring up primordial sentiments about the characters as he reads on.

 Before we move further, let’s establish what accents and dialects are.

WHAT IS AN ACCENT?

An accent is a distinctive or unique way of pronouncing a word that is associated with, or that can be traced to a particular country, region, tribe or social class. It is what signposts someone’s race, ethnicity, and sometimes educational background without necessarily making inquiries from the person. For example, an accent is what makes you decipher that Suleiman is from Northern Nigeria and that Wayne is British from their first sentences.

WHAT IS A DIALECT?

A Dialect is a language peculiar to people from a particular geographical location. It is the lingua franca of a particular region, tribe, race, or nationality, or simply put, it is how people speak their mother tongue. Dialect is distinguished by features like pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary from various regional or geographical groups, which constitutes a single language. For instance, the Ibibio language (a language spoken by the Ibibio ethnic group in Akwa Ibom State, South-South, Nigeria) has some slight differences in pronunciation of words from the Annang language (a language spoken by the Annang ethnic group in Akwa Ibom State, South-South, Nigeria). However, indigenes of the two tribes understand each other vividly.

Having established what accents and dialects are, let’s go back to the meat of this article, which is five ways accents and dialects help a fiction story.

There are many ways accents and dialects help a fiction story. But in this article, we will be highlighting the five most efficient ways accents and dialects aid a fiction story.

HOW ACCENTS AND DIALECTS HELP A FICTION STORY:

  1. They serve as visual stimuli in a fiction story: accent serves as visual stimuli to a reader. The core of a good book is its ability to stir emotions and create a connection between the reader and the author. By attaching accents and dialects to the characterisation of a story, a reader is able to cast a mental picture of the story’s setting. It also helps the reader appreciate the relatable content of a book in relation to its setting. For instance, a writer who is telling a story about the bustling life of Lagos – the commercial nerve of Nigeria, will do a shabby job if he does not infuse British English, Nigerian pidgin, and Yoruba language with its intonation in the characters’ dialogues and monologues. These are the typical makeups of the interactions on the streets of Lagos.
  • They create stereotypes of the characters in a story: accents and dialects help reinforce a myth or perception of an idea or image associated with a particular group of people. A writer uses accents and dialects to cast a certain kind of prejudice about a particular group of people in a story based on the message he is passing across in his work. Accents and dialects create a contrast between the different classes of people prevalent in a certain society based on their demographic and psychological attributes, and these have proven to be very useful in satires or parodies.  
  • They give life to characters in a story: the use of accents and dialects in a story helps infuse life into the characters. It props up emotions and the relevant sentiments that are dominant in our daily interface as humans. These help stirs empathy as well as apathy in the reader’s mind towards a character’s dispositions. It elicits the author’s intended reaction from the reader.
  • Accents and dialects help bring linguistic discrepancies to the fore: the fundamental value of a literary text is its ability to introduce new ideas, concepts, paradigms, and dogmas to its reader. Through books, we are able to unravel new knowledge and information. When a writer rightly apportions accents and dialects to the characters in a book, it gives the reader insights into the linguistic variations between certain groups of persons and the languages obtainable in different geographical locations.
  • Accents and dialects increase the readership of a book: attaching accents and dialects to the characters in a story is a subtle way of surging the readership of a book. People often gravitate towards things that portray their features and peculiarity; as such, they decide what materials they consume based on their hues and affiliations. For instance, A book whose story and characters’ dialects and accents depict the African lifestyle in the United States will attract a large pull of African-American readers, yielding more sales for the author and enhancing his popularity.

Conclusively, to become an author whose publication does not gather dust on someone’s shelf, it is pertinent to employ all the elements and devices that will entice your reader when he flips through the pages of your book. One veritable way of doing this is to attach accents and dialects to the characters in your book.