Content versus Form

Let’s say Writer A wants to tackle a novel-length work. Her story is great but her weakness is spelling, grammar and punctuation. Another writer, B, wants to do the same. He is an ace at spelling, etc, pens beautiful sentences, but his weakness is story or scene writing or pace.
Writing Tip for Today: Both these writers have a lot of learning to do. While it’s easy to pronounce the first writer’s problems as less serious (after all, spell checkers are easy to come by) than someone who doesn’t have a solid story, it’s not always that simple.

  • The writer who has a brilliant story but who doesn’t bother to brush up on spelling and other errors may never get the attention she deserves from agents and editors. They will reject you without even looking at your work. If you fall into this category, hire someone to clean up your manuscript.
  • The writer who has a squeaky clean manuscript but whose story is lacking in tension or high stakes may end up frustrated and not really understand why agents aren’t biting.
  • Most of the time, a great story will beat out beautiful vacuous writing. Yet whether you are Writer A or Writer B, pay attention to your craft. Learn both the small stuff (if you don’t want to learn grammar names, at least use parts of speech correctly) and the big stuff. For small stuff help, Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style is a timeless resource. For story help, Story by Robert McKee or any book on basic screenwriting will help you employ the techniques necessary to a good story.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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