Back to Basics: The Building Blocks of Writing

The kids are back at school, my sanity’s returned and now is the time for me to knuckle down too.  Six weeks without regular writing and I’m feeling a bit rusty.  But before I get back to letting my imagination run wild it’s time for me to learn some discipline.  Something along the same lines as my nine year old is currently learning in his first lesson of the  morning.  I’m talking about grammar and punctuation.

My New Writers’ Scheme Reader’s Report arrived over the long summer stretch and left me itching to start making changes.  It was so positive and inspiring, ‘This was a bright, sparky novel that I enjoyed reading and was always happy to come back to after a break.  The tone was light, the setting was original and the plot interesting.  I can see from your form, Lisa, that this is your second novel and I think you should be proud that you have reached such a high standard of writing with your second piece of full-length fiction.’ … ‘I want to emphasise again how high the standard of your writing is.  This book is definitely something you should be very proud of and it demonstrates a huge amount of potential.’  I was left walking on cloud nine.  But sadly it wasn’t quite of a high enough standard to be put through for a second read (suggesting it’s almost publishable) and one of the elements significantly letting me down is my grammar.

I am a child of the eighties.  A time of success, power, feminism, pop… all these things I remember.  Being taught the difference between a common and proper noun, I do not.  The only person I remember teaching me to construct words and sentences is this strange, little creature:

and there was also his mate Bill the Brickie:

As much as I can remember them, I have to say, the part of the programme that always engaged me most was the story that continued each week, usually full of drama and action which allowed my imagination to flow.  Possibly why I never really grasped the basics of grammar and punctuation and perhaps better explains why I have always written stories!

A car would be no use without its wheels so, equally, my stories are useless if no-one could understand them (although I have it on good authority, it’s not *that* bad).  So, back to the beginning I have decided to go.  Firstly, I have me with my good friend and writing oracle, Alison Maynard (, who has given me a crash course in subject, verb, direct and indirect and complements.  She’s also identified my propensity to over-egg-the-pudding and use ten words where one would be sufficient.  That’s going to help get my word count down!  She also gave me a very useful tip about editing grammar and punctuation; start from the end and work back.  Then I won’t be taken along by the flow of my writing and the story and might actually focus on my glaringly obvious English language errors.

When I’m writing there are so many plates spinning in the air.  Tone and pace, showing not telling, identifying with what you want your reader to understand, not to mention the basic plot, setting and character.  All these things are swirling at the forefront of my mind and exactly how I say, what I’m trying to say sometimes gets a bit lost.

Thankfully the mechanics of language I can master.  If I didn’t have the imagination, well, that would be a much bigger worry.

Now read through this again and correct the grammatical errors 🙂


One thought on “Back to Basics: The Building Blocks of Writing

  1. Hi Lisa,
    Great comments in your NWS report – congratulations and well done. 🙂
    That’s a really good tip about reading from the end to the beginning – I must remember that.
    Elle xx


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