Don’t dream about it, do it! Everyone has a story to tell. Some of us just don’t realise it …
Have you found your story? If you haven’t written it, why not? Are you scared? Do you feel like you’re standing on the edge of a cliff, worrying about the fall? Let yourself go. Simply enjoy the view and forget about the rest — that’s what writing is about.
If your grammar, punctuation and spelling aren’t of the same standard as someone with a degree in English, who cares? Okay, you need to care a little, but it shouldn’t be a roadblock to writing your story.
There are workshops and short courses designed to help. If you can’t afford it, read up as much as you can on the subject. A lot of it can be confusing, and sometimes you’ll find differing information on the same topic. Don’t worry too much about it at this stage. Just write!
A spell-checker will pick up the most common errors, but it’s no substitute for a human. Once you’ve finished writing your book, put it down for a few weeks, then pick it up and read it. You’re bound to find some things that don’t sit right. Highlight them. If you’re not sure why they don’t seem right, ask family and friends for their opinion. In fact, ask them to read the entire thing and provide feedback, with corrections, if they’re willing. If you really want to go to the next level and publish your book, you’ll need to find an editor. Poor grammar turns readers away in droves and this is where a good editor is worth every dollar you’ll be paying them. Yes, you may need to dip into your retirement fund to pay for it, but think of it as an opportunity to find out what errors you’ve missed. You can learn from those mistakes and make sure you don’t make the same ones in the future.
Another good tip for picking up typos that I’ve recently put into practise is reading my work backwards. Start at the last paragraph on the last page. When you’ve finished that one, move onto the second last paragraph on the last page, and so on. Reading your work backwards makes it more difficult for your brain to anticipate what should happen. In other words, your brain is working harder by paying more attention to each word, rather than skimming over each sentence.
When you take in any changes to correct errors and omissions, it’s just as easy to make more errors fixing things. To reduce the risk of creating more typos, make your corrections a different colour. That way, when you’ve finished marking-up (changing) your book, you can quickly find and re-read those areas you have changed. If you’re deleting text, highlight a few words before and after the deletion. This is important, because it is very easy to delete more than you intended to! When you re-read those areas you’ll then be able to tell if the text flows as it should.
That’s roadblock one out of the way. Now onto roadblock two.
You can’t afford word processing software, I hear you say. Well, you don’t need expensive software in order to write. Here are some options for you.
WordPad is a very basic word processor that comes standard with Microsoft Windows, so if you have a Windows PC, you already have access to WordPad.
OpenOffice is an open-source office solution. That is, it’s free to download and use, which makes it a great alternative to Microsoft Word. According to the OpenOffice website, “Apache OpenOffice is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.”
OpenOffice can be found here: OpenOffice Official Site
LibreOffice is another open-source office solution that is free to download and use. According to the LibreOffice website, “LibreOffice is a powerful office suite; its clean interface and powerful tools let you unleash your creativity and grow your productivity. LibreOffice embeds several applications that make it the most powerful Free & Open Source Office suite on the market: Writer, the word processor, Calc, the spreadsheet application, Impress, the presentation engine, Draw, our drawing and flowcharting application, Base, our database and database frontend, and Math for editing mathematics.”
LibreOffice can be found here: LibreOffice Free Office Suite
Scrivener is an authoring tool developed specifically for writers. It isn’t free, but it is a cheap alternative to Microsoft Word. You can keep all of your notes and research in the one project, together with your manuscript. Best of all, Scrivener has the ability to ‘Compile’ (export) your finished document into a variety of formats, including eBooks. It is for this reason that I use Scrivener. According to Literature and Latte’s website, “Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.”
Scrivener can be found here: Buy Scrivener for Windows (Regular Licence)
Just remember, writing is meant to be exciting and fun. If it’s too much like hard work, then you’re doing it wrong.
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