- Paint a mental picture with your words. This is a mundane description: “I was afraid when the dog growled at me.” This is better: “Its body rigid, every hair on the Doberman’s back stood at attention. It glared at me, bearing huge menacing teeth as it snarled a low, deep, and terrifying growl. Petrified, I stared back, too scared to move.” But don’t go overboard with adjectives and descriptors. Too much makes your writing boring: “It was a sultry, humid evening. The sunset glowed orange-red, like the embers from a fire. I was surrounded by gigantic, gnarly, twisting trees.” This description is overkill!
- Be truthful. We are not compiling a book of fiction, so don’t embellish your story to spice it up. If it needs more entertainment value, search for better descriptions in your existing story. Consider writing about interesting thoughts you may have had at the time. Perhaps you could add a little history of the situation or geography of the area. Consider writing about your animal’s characteristics or behaviors. Don’t exaggerate.
- Jot down ideas and phraseology when you first think of them. The perfect idea, thought, phrase, or sentence often does not come when you sit down to write, especially if you are struggling to write something. It comes to you when you least expect it, like when you are driving, hiking, washing dishes, or getting ready for bed. When the perfect idea or sentence pops into your head, chances are you won’t remember it later, so stop right then and jot it down.
- An exciting and entertaining story trumps perfect grammar. Of course, you need to try to use correct grammar and punctuation, but no need to sweat it. Since you are not writing a story for English class, perfect grammar is not required, but don’t throw caution to the wind and write like a 3rd grader either. Focus on telling your tale, rather than perfect syntax or grammar, just like you do when talking. We will read and edit your story for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes.
- Write short sentences, not long complex ones. Don’t write like a textbook – with complex sentences so long, one must read them slowly or more than once to comprehend them. You don’t need to make every sentence a simple one, but keep in mind that short sentences are easy to read and easy to comprehend. Look at marketing pieces. Their focus is on getting and keeping your attention, not perfect sentence structure. Marketers write short sentences and short paragraphs that get to the point. Unlike the rules in English class, one or two words can be a complete sentence. Wow! Imagine that!
- A little research goes a long way. No matter how well you know a subject, there will be times when you are not sure about a fact, or what you believe to be fact may be a myth or simply incorrect. If there is any doubt at all in the details of your story, look it up! It only takes a few minutes to “google” it. For example, when the author of the book Think You Know Animals? was writing a question about javelinas, she had a lifelong belief javelinas were in the pig family. Meticulous about facts, she fact-checked to make sure her information was correct, and discovered her information about javelinas was wrong! Javelinas look like pigs but are not pigs at all. Having an incorrect fact in your story causes you to lose credibility with your audience, and may get your story rejected.
- Have a friend read the story out loud to you. Do not give them any details about the story before or after they read it. If they need further explanation, then write that into the story. If they need to read a sentence twice to understand it, that sentence needs to be rewritten. Ask your friend to honestly answer the following questions: Does every sentence make sense? Does the story flow or is it awkward in places? Is it interesting? Did they learn anything? Were they entertained? Is there anything too repetitive? Is it worthy of being published?
- Great writing is nothing more than rewriting. Don’t expect to sit down and write your story in one sitting. Write it ASAP, then put it away for a few hours or days. When you come back to it, your mind will be fresh and you will more easily see what doesn’t flow, doesn’t sound quite right, or needs to be clarified. Take a break anytime you are stumped, frustrated, or have writer’s block. Writing cannot be forced; it must flow.
Good Luck!! You can do it! We look forward to receiving your story.