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Basic Concepts to Help You Improve Your Writing Skills Basic Concepts to Help You Improve Your Writing Skills by Mike Lawson

This article is directed at writers seeking publication in magazines, e-zines, newsletters and various other forums. Topics such as vocabulary, grammar and style as well as content, research and editing will be discussed. But before we get that far along, we want to touch on some of the basic skills and characteristics that good writers have and editors seek.

Writers can be classified into four basic categories:

1. Bad writers
2. Competent writers
3. Good writers
4. Great writers

Bad writers: These are the hacks that either can not or will not use the fundamental skills of the written language. Their misspelled efforts are grammatically inconsistent, eaten alive with adverbs and lack continuity in content. Albeit poor examples to emulate, they too have a purpose we will discuss later.

Competent writers: These are writers that possess the fundamental skills of language, can put together a cohesive work and convey the intended message. But their abilities end there. They simply lack luster. If they do get published, it will probably be in the middle of mediocrity.

Good writers: This is the kill zone! This is where you desire to position yourself as a writer. These writers produce excellent content that is fundamentally sound, stylish, entertaining and informational. They have mastered fundamental skills and have a collection of specialized skills that allow them to tweak every word and phase to their advantage. These are writers that readers hate to put down as opposed to pick up. While it is impossible to turn a bad writer into a competent one, it is possible with hard work, for a competent writer to become a good one.

Great writers: The Grand Masters, the literary legends: Shakespeare, Hugo, Steinbeck, etc. The rules here are simple enough. You either are one or you are not. It is not a learned skill or acquired trait. You cannot make a master out of a really good writer any more than you can make a bass fiddle out of a drum.

Keep this hierarchy in mind. Do an honest assessment of yourself. Where are you on the writer's scale?

If you are a bad writer, then I am sorry. There is not much help to offer that will bring you along.
Are you a competent writer? Are you content with that? If you are, then you may as well go on your way, too. You will be able to find a niche writing somewhere that will afford you a level of mediocre success.

Are you a competent writer that is motivated to put forth the effort to become a good writer? Or the good writer that has a desire to be even better? Good then! You are the target audience of this series of articles.

Writing is a complex system comprised of many simple parts. The stronger the foundation of the fundamental elements, the more stability in the structure that rests on it. The cornerstone to success in anything that you do is to have a set of obtainable goals laid out before you with an end in sight; a road map, if you will. If you don't know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?

You have already assessed where you are now and where you want be. Once you know this, you can make a plan that takes you there. Develop a mission statement of what kind of writer you will be.

A mission statement forms the constitution that governs the implementation of your plan. Shy away from weak words and phrases: "I will try to, as best I can," etc. They predict failure. Instead use powerful words and phrases! Your mission statement should be full of will statements. "I will master the grammatical aspect of the craft," or "I will continuously improve my editing skills." Make these commitments to yourself and stick to them!

Before you ever pick up a pen or type the first word of a project, you should have a mission statement committed to making you a better writer. It doesn't have to be a long, drawn out, complicated matter. Maybe just a paragraph or so that lays out your personal creed as a writer.

Mike Lawson is a freelance writer and entrepreneur running many Internet ventures. Learn more about writing successful content for your articles or website at Appalachian Writer's Forum or contact Mike at Bluegrass Solutions.

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