5 Ways To Add Sparkle To Your Writing

Would You Like To Add Sparkle To Your Writing?

Would You Like To Add Sparkle To Your Writing?

Does your writing sometimes fall flat?

You can’t figure out exactly why, but you know when it happens. There’s no chemistry, no sparkle to lift your writing and give it wings.

There are practical ways to put that  ‘je ne sais quoi’ back into your writing.

All you have to do is to recognize and fix the five common errors that dull the sparkle of your writing.


1.     Your characters are fraternal twins.

They might not look like each other, but they often mimic one another’s movements and reactions. Building unique characters extends to giving them unique ways of responding to the world.

What do your characters do when they’re nervous? If they all wipe their brow, you’ve got problems. These are common gestures that don’t make memorable characters.

If you find it hard to come up with different, memorable gestures, create a database of them. People have a smorgasbord of reactions that most writers never take advantage of. Always carry a notebook to record the less obvious ones.

If you see a quarrel at a cashier’s counter, watch the customers carefully. Where are their hands? How are they standing? What do they sound like? You’ll soon have a cheat sheet of wonderfully original, true reactions. These will form the basis for unique characters.


2.    Your sentences play the same beat.

If you read like a reader, you’ll see how important pacing is.

Varying the length of your sentences gives the writing its own rhythm. It keeps the reader alert and allows you to shine a spotlight onto the right sentence. For example, Dean Koontz writes:

“According to the current master of Roseland and everyone who worked for him, the source of the disturbing cry was a loon. They were either ignorant or lying.”

The emphasis is on the short sentence. They were lying.


3.    You let a cliché escape. 

You jotted down a stale, overused term or description, but it was never meant to stay that way.

You were going to return and fix it at some point. Then on your second or third edit, changing it seemed like too much work. It’s just one or two sentences anyway, right? What’s the big deal?

Any phrase or way of seeing that is common and overused is a death grip on your writing. The words have no impact; readers gloss over them.

Force yourself to think more creatively.  Between “She read my mind” and “She saw clean into the marrow of my thoughts”, which one is more likely to grab a reader’s attention?


4.    You tell instead of showing.

Sure, it’s clichéd advice, but it’s also the Venus flytrap of writing. Touché!

Unless you’re on the lookout, a leisurely paragraph can easily turn into a section that loses your reader. And the book snaps shut, never to be opened again.

We’re accustomed to telling instead of showing in conversation, since showing requires more thought and ingenuity. That’s why it’s such an easy mistake to make – one that even Chekhov felt he had to illustrate:

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”


5.     You never abandoned the manuscript.

You’ve written your umpteenth draft, and you’re as happy as a writer can possibly be.

Now it’s time to lock the manuscript in a drawer and forget about it. As Zadie Smith recommends, spend at least three months away from its clutches. You will then be able to return with a fresh perspective, as a reader instead of a writer.

At this point, redundancies, limp sentences, and awkward transitions will seem obvious. You’ll be your own best editor.


If you can grab hold of these five errors and rein them in in your writing, you’ll find your writing sparkling – and sparking your audience too!

I am so confident of the sparkles, that I guarantee them. In fact, if your experience turns out differently, I want to hear from you!

Please share your thoughts and challenges in the comments. I’d love to know what you think.


About the Author:

Natasa Lekic is an editor at NY Book Editors, a boutique editing service that caters to self-published writers who are serious about their craft. If you’d like to get more editorial advice, drop in on their blog.

Image: Add Sparkle To Your Writing courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com

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22 Responses to “5 Ways To Add Sparkle To Your Writing”

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  1. I enjoyed reading your info.I learned something from it.After 6 years of writing I released my first book 8/22/12.The title is THE SIR DAVID THOMAS SERIES.IT took quite a while before I was satisfied with what I wrote.

    • Natasa Lekic says:

      I’m so glad you learned something; that’s the greatest compliment.

      Kudos on persevering with your book. The most worthwhile ones usually take many years to form.

  2. Since I enjoyed your article I was interested in visiting your blog. When I clicked the link, though, it only came up with “http://” and not the address.

    Could you send me the link @ThinkIntuition? Thanks much.
    Jacki Dilley (@ThinkIntuition) recently posted..How To Turn Discouragement Into HopeMy Profile

  3. Jevon says:

    Great stuff.

    I think building unique characters can also relate to how you describe them. You can describe a physical trait about a character and keep it unique by ensuring no other character in the story has that trait, like being extremely tall, or having dark skin. That way, when you mention the trait again, the character immediately comes to the reader’s mind.

    And while it’s never good to use cliches in a story, sometimes a simple description beats a creative but overly complex one. You don’t want readers scratching their heads in confusion.
    Jevon recently posted..King Larsen Trailer 15: Scene from a NightmareMy Profile

    • Natasa Lekic says:

      That’s true. Giving a character a unique physical trait can help distinguish them. I’m a great fan of making that trait relate to who they are, or to their history in some way.

      For example, extremely tall Sam has no choice but to be the center of attention. People notice him wherever he goes, so now he encourages it. He wears fluorescent shirts and yells instead of speaking. Of course, you’d never overtly explain why Sam is obnoxiously annoying, but I find it helps you understand the character if you consider the trait.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great fan of simple descriptions! Just not cliches. The example in the post might not have been ideal…

  4. Great advice. I especially agree with 1 & 4. I’ve read (and written) many manuscripts where the characters simply don’t have distinctive personalities, mannerisms, quirks, beliefs, etc.

    On top of that, in ALL types of writing, people tell rather than show because telling is so much easier. But with revisions, you can catch those dull telling moments and turn them into vivid imagery.

    Thanks for the reminders!
    Sarah L. Webb recently posted..How to Plan Your Life Away Without Even TryingMy Profile

  5. Natasa, I find Twitter is a fine format to practice writing skills. At age 70 it’s wonderful to shorten sentences without messing with onion skin and carbon paper.

    • Natasa Lekic says:

      So true, Barbara. What can be more restrictive than a 140 character limit? In fact, Hemingway wrote an entire story in less than 140 characters. Are you familiar with it?

      For sale, baby shoes, never worn.

  6. Great post. I’m sitting at the computer now stuck on some cliche phrases. Thank you for the tips. I will have to read more about these characters. In my mind right now , I’m thinking that you mean always write from the view point of fraternal twins. I’ m probably over thinking number 1, but I’m engaged with the thought. Thanks.

    • Natasa Lekic says:

      Thanks, Jennifer. I probably wasn’t clear, but I actually cautioned against creating characters that seem like fraternal twins. It’s important to give each character a unique way of speaking and moving through the world.

  7. Loved these. Shoot them out any time. We always need pithy reminders of how to be a better writer.

  8. What a terrific article. I am passing it on to my author friends and following your advice. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Great writing tips! Keeping these in mind as I prepare for my next post… Thanks so much for this.

  10. surinderleen says:

    Some of these advices are not new for me but it has really sparkled the article. I was doubtful about pace and now this article has cleared my point. Thanks!

  11. Every one is different , every author has his own methods! Article is nice ,but it is not for me!

  12. Maranna says:

    Great reminders Natasa. I’ve bookmarked this article for future reference.

    It’s difficult when you proofread again and again and…. that all seems boring. I think an ‘archive session’ may well be the way to go. Then some problems become glaringly obvious.
    Maranna recently posted..A Town Like Kupa PitiMy Profile