We are all writers. Whether you write short stories, blog posts, or full-length novels, we all have room to grow and improve upon our prose. From mastering the semicolon to developing the perfect hook, ring in 2020 with our New Year’s writing resolutions below!
1. Master the coveted em dash.
The em dash is a daunting yet wonderful writing tool—and when used properly—can sprinkle variation and emphasis into your sentences. This is not to be confused with the hyphen—a shorter, frequently-used symbol to connect two items to serve as a joint modifier. Nor is it to be confused by the en dash—the hyphen and the em dash’s middle sibling—used in number and date ranges, directions, and complex compound adjectives, such as a “Mascot Books–style blog”.
While you do not want to use the em dash excessively (this can become repetitive and stale), there are many ways you can use the em dash to add flair and variance to your writing. As Karen Elizabeth Gordon writes in The New Well-Tempered Sentence, “an em dash can lead you to an upshot, a final summary word or statement, an abrupt appositive, and similarly can emphasize a particular word.”
- Use the em dash to express a break in continuity.
- I submitted my book idea on Mascot Book’s website—how nerve wracking it was!—and was pleased to find that I had an email from acquisitions editor Jess Cohn the next morning.
- The em dash can replace commas to emphasize an appositive.
- All of the steps in the book publication timeline—acquisitions, production, and marketing—have led me to my book’s retail release date.
- Use a pair of em dashes for a different stylistic approach.
- I was excited—even ecstatic—to receive my books in hand.
To quote Karen Elizabeh Gordon once more, “semicolons, unlike commas, are for separating only, when a period is a tougher break than what your sense demands.” Sentences sometimes need to be carried on; sentence variation will captivate your reader.
- Semicolons are most commonly used between closely related independent clauses.
- I prefer hybrid-style publishing; I like having full control over my book’s journey.
- You can use the semicolon to balance two contrasting but similarly-structured clauses.
- The marketing manager worked diligently; the Mascot author had peace of mind.
- Replace commas with semicolons for long or confusing lists.
- The members of the Mascot Books production editor team are Kristin; Nina; Michelle; Lauren; Nicole; Emily; Rachel; with more team members to come.
3. Incorporate a variety of transition words into your writing.
Transition words are key tools for demonstrating changes in action, characters, and events. While these words can be helpful, using an abundance of transition words—or worse, the same few transition words interchangeably—can make your writing dull and ultimately lose the attention of your reader.
- While chatting with the Mascot Books team, I was overcome with a comforting feeling that I found the publisher for me.
- Just then, inspiration struck; I was able to put the finishing touches on my manuscript.
Check out this list for more story and transition word examples!
4. Cut the fat; write a great hook.
“It was a pleasure to burn.”
“All children, except one, grow up.”
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”
Every notable novel has an iconic hook that sets it apart from the sea of books in a saturated market. Having a captivating hook is not only important to keep your reader engaged, but also to catch the attention of your future publisher. Everyone says this, but it’s true! Having a great hook is what makes readers keep reading.
The three key things that a Mascot Books acquisitions editor looks for in a first chapter submission are the following:
- How the author established voice, and
- Do the acquisitions editor want to keep reading?
By hitting these three points, your book is more likely to be picked up by a publisher and keep your reader enthralled.
5. Look at the bigger picture.
Sprinkle in em dashes and semicolons, use a variety of transition words, and write a great hook; while these are great steps to take in order to elevate your writing, do not forget to look at the bigger picture. What is the overall goal of your writing? What do you hope readers will take away? Are you open to criticism?
While not every piece of writing needs to promote a clear message, it is important to decide on what the overall purpose or idea is behind your writing. Whether you aim to teach a lesson, evoke a feeling, or simply entertain, keep this purpose in mind as you draft your piece.
Be open to criticism. A writer will never feel that their book is complete—but online forums, editors, and peers can look at your writing with fresh eyes and help you to arrive at a finished, brilliant product.