Yesterday was the beginning of skills I think writers should have or at least be aware of. Today, is the continuation of that post. Keep in mind, these are skills I think writers should possess.
Command of the Language
How is your personal lexicon? Pretty big, I hope. Varied, I hope. Learn the language. Learn the rules of the language. Understand why the language is used the way it is, because when you understand why you can break or bend the rules in a way that is accepted by readers and not rejected by readers. Learn new words. Learn variations and alternatives to the words you use most. Learn, about the language you choose to write in.
I should not have to write this, but know how to spell or know how to use spell check and hope that the suggested word is the word you were hoping for or even better, learn how to use a dictionary. Today, there is no excuse for a misspelled word, unless you mean it on porpoise (see what I did there?).
Grammar and Punctuation
I am horrible with punctuation. I scored in the bottom of my class every time. I know this. I also know how punctuation is supposed to be used. A good writer, even if they are weak with punctuation or grammar, needs to know how and why they are used. Funny thing about grammar and punctuation, readers will allow mistakes. Readers will fill in the missing bits on their own as long as the mistakes are not to glaring or to many in a row. Just like command of the language, make the time to learn the rules of grammar and punctuation. Oh, for those people who think they “know” grammar and punctuation, you do not. There are too many rules for one person to know all of, unless that is your chosen specialization and career. Worse case scenario, you get a refresher.
Editing and Drafts
There is no such thing as “one and done” with writing. Every single thing a writer puts to paper or screen can be revised. The best piece of advice I ever read about good editing went something like this, roughly half of the words written in any paper can be safely removed. This make writing tighter. Makes the job of the writer more difficult, but if you think about the amount of filler in any given sentence that advice is right.
If there is no “one and done” what is there? Drafts and revisions is the answer. A writer should go through a series of drafts and revisions before declaring something done. By the way, done, means into the hands of an editor, not finished. The first few drafts will be a mess. This is part of the process. Write down anything and everything. Just do it. Do not think about “what next” or “this is a mess,” just write everything down.
Then after a day or so, go through what you wrote. Pick out the good, set the bad aside (some stuff is going to be bad and other stuff will merit another look at and potentially find a home in some future written work), and revise. Keep doing this until you are happy. There is no set amount of drafts and revisions, to each their own. However, the more work you put into your drafts and revisions before handing it off, the less you will have to do and less work you will make someone else do for your writing.
Know Your Weaknesses
Learn what you are good at and get better at it. Learn what you are bad at and get better at it. Above all, know where your writing weak spots are and know people who are good at those skills.