5 Common Writing Mistakes

Stockphoto courtesy of Ivorymix.com

Stockphoto courtesy of Ivorymix.com

Let’s face it. We’ve all been there. Inspiration is flying high and your fingers race to keep up with the firework finale in your mind. You finally catch your breath and look at the outcome of your hard work. Right after pressing the submit button, you spot it. 

An error. 

It happens to the best of us. Don’t sweat it, friend. We all make mistakes. 

Although we know mistakes will happen, we can still take measures to ensure our work is top quality. Let’s talk about five common mistakes found in our writing. 

Homophones. Those pesky words sound the same but are spelled differently. You know, words like to, too, and two. Or attendance and attendants. 

When we’re writing, it’s so easy to mistake one homophone for another. Sometimes we place greater emphasis on the sound of words than the correct spelling. Before finalizing your work, make sure you look out for any homophones you may have used incorrectly. 

Another common mistake we’ve all made is using apostrophes inappropriately. Take for example the sentence below:

Gloria, it’s about time you go on a date! 

In this case, “it’s” means “it is”. “It’s” is often confused with “its”, which is used to show possession. Take a look at the next example:

The bird is in its treehouse. 

There’s no apostrophe needed because “its” is used to show us that the tree house belongs to the bird.  

I’ll spare you the grammar lesson, friend. Just remember “it’s” is a contraction and “its” shows possession. 

Now, let’s talk about commas. I can’t lie to you. I used to put commas wherever I wanted because honestly, I didn’t think it mattered! (Sorry Dr. E and Mr. Lemahieu!) Now, I know better. Commas are pretty important. You don’t think so? Take a look at this next example:

Let’s cook Mom. vs Let’s cook, Mom. 

The first sentence insinuates you want to cook your mom. The second sentence clearly demonstrates you’re asking your mom to cook with you. Correct punctuation saves lives, folks. 

Tweet that >> Correct punctuation saves lives, folks! 

Not only do we need to check for commas, but we also need to make sure we haven’t confused words. Take the famous “accept” vs “except” example. Let’s pretend you were offered a position at your dream job (go you!). You would respond by saying, “I accept this position.” 

Accept” means you either receive or take on the responsibility of something. 

If you’re looking at the contract and notice the salary is less than what you discussed, you would say, “I agree with everything except the salary.” “Except” means you are excluding something. 

Other commonly confused words are yoke vs yolk and loose vs lose. I know we all make mistakes, but I cannot tell you how many grey hairs grace my crown every time I notice someone incorrectly using “loose” and “lose”. Just kidding, guys--sort of. Lol!

We could go on and on, but let's talk about one more common writing mistake. As you are about to wrap up that angelic piece you poured your heart into, make sure to check your spelling. I think everyone probably has access to spell check, but it wouldn’t hurt to proof your spelling anyway. You may catch an error that wasn’t recognized by good ol’ technology. 

No matter how much you proof your work, you may end up finding an error after you schedule that blog post or newsletter. It’s not the end of the world though, friend. If anything, mistakes remind us that we are human. 

What I’ve found to be helpful, however, is to have someone else proof my work. Having a fresh pair of eyes works wonders. Sometimes we get too attached to our work and this attachment blinds us from the improvements we need to make. If you’re looking for a fresh pair of eyes to help you with grammar and punctuation, flow, consistency, and sentence structure, then check out my editing services here. I'd love to help you polish your next writing piece before you publish it!

What are some common writing mistakes you've come across? Let us know in the comments!

What to Do When Your Creativity is Resistant

We need to learn to respect the process and grant our creativity the ability to bloom when she wants.

Writer’s block is the devil. 

Every writer knows what I’m talking about. 

You’ve changed scenery and even read books and articles for inspiration. You keep journaling and journaling, praying that what flows from your fountain pen or keyboard will manifest itself into this AH-MAZING piece that you can be proud of. You want the pure satisfaction of knowing you are indeed a writer who can’t be beaten by the infinite possible arrangements of twenty-six letters. 

You’re a writer for crying out loud. That’s what you do. You write. 

So, when you’re faced with a screen filled with incomprehensible rubbish, you want to pull your hair out and hurl yourself to the floor like a two-year-old who can’t have that sweet piece of sugar-coated goodness. 

Related 4 Ways to Beat Writer's Block

This has been my life, ladies and gentlemen. For the past few weeks, I’ve been able to share must-haves for writers on vacay, I wrote content revolved around improving your writing, and I even wrote a book review on Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give. 

Yet, when I sit down to write a personal essay, I become a toddler again, learning to walk for the first time. I stumble to find my way. The words flow, but with resistance. Ideas appear but are muddied. 

Why is it so much easier for me to write content for writers than personal essays? 

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love writing instructional and fun pieces--BUT, my soul longs to bathe in the sweet bliss that only personal essays can give me. The high I feel when I bare my naked soul has to be what people experience every time they take a hit of some good stuff (so I hear). 

I want to feel that natural high every time I pick up my purple pen or pull out my Green giant-sized laptop. I want to dive into a pool of this feeling and never come up for air some days.

Yet, I’m learning I have to come up for air. Otherwise, this incredible high will consume me completely, and I’ll overdose on the very thing that breathes so much life into me. 

I wasn’t given this passion so I could escape my day-to-day life and responsibilities. In fact, I’ve come to learn writers must live to produce life-changing words. 

We need to have tea with our daughter and paint a picture with our son. Go to a jazz club with our significant other and dance the night away. It may seem as if we’re not doing anything to propel our stories, but this isn’t true. We need to live to create. 

Instead of forcing creativity to be kind, what I need is patience. 

Patience to let my incomprehensible rubbish reconstruct itself into manna. 

Patience to respect the process and the head space I must be in to commune with my creativity.

Great writing takes time. I cannot rush to build my Rome. I must grant my creativity the freedom she needs to bloom as she deems necessary. 

What do you do when you struggle to write in a specific genre? Let us know in the comments! 

How to Plan and Host Your Writer Interview Series

Stock Photo By CreateHerStock

Stock Photo By CreateHerStock

You wanna host a writer interview series, huh? Great! Before getting started, you need to know why you’re conducting this interview series. What is its purpose and what do you hope you and your readers gain? If you’re stuck, think about a problem your readers mentioned. Create your interview series as a way to provide answers your readers need. 

For example, in my May series, every writer I interviewed revealed how they gave themselves permission to write authentically. Writing authentically is a huge struggle for some writers. The May series served as a way for writers to learn tips on how they, too, can write authentically and unapologetically.  

See 5 Reasons Writers Struggle with Authenticity

Got your purpose in mind? Good. Let's start thinking about who you want to interview.
I know you know tons of writers, but you need to choose only writers who can best help you reach your overall goal. Grab a pen and notepad, friend. Make a list of potential interviewees who would be a great fit for your series. Are you looking for writers from a specific genre or with a certain skill level? Whoever you choose, your interviewees should add value to your readers’ knowledge. 
You may be wondering what to do if you don't have enough writers to interview. If this is the case, you can always reach out to others via social media. Who knows? You may know someone who knows someone else who would be a perfect fit for your interview series. Whatever you do, consider having a screening process. Check out the potential interviewee's website, blog, and social media platforms. Ask yourself if this person aligns with what you’re looking for. 
Don’t be afraid to pitch to writers you know would add value to your interview series. This is a mistake I made. I wanted to pitch my idea to three writers I admire, but I chickened out! (more about this in another post) Fortunately, I was still able to attract enough writers for my May series

See A Seat at the Writer's Table
I’m a pretty big (over) planner. So, I thought it would be great to create a list of questions to ask each interviewee. After checking out each person’s website and social media handles, I was able to tailor my questions to that person’s area of expertise. You don’t have to do that, but I feel like it lets your interviewee know you’ve done your homework. 
Once you have your list of questions, you need to decide how to conduct your interviews. If you're fortunate, you’ll be able to use video to record your writer interviews. Your readers will love putting a face to a name. Watching your interviews also helps your readers feel more connected to you and your special guests. However, if your schedules do not align, you can always email your list of questions and have them respond that way. Email interviews can be a little less personal, but they still give your readers access to a wealth of knowledge. 
If you’re using Zoom to conduct your interviews, just remember to ask your interviewees to choose the video option (if that’s your preference). I forgot to do that with two of my special guests and I had a few people who were bummed because they could only see me on the recording. 

When planning your writer interview series, decide how long you will need to conduct each interview. One big mistake I made when doing my May series is that I did not give myself enough time to record and schedule the interviews. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to complete everything, especially since I ended up with twice the amount of writers interested than I anticipated!

Look at your calendar and choose dates you’re available to record the interviews. Give yourself time to edit the videos if necessary, too. You may end up with an interview where the volume is an issue (like one of mine), and need someone to help you fix that problem. It’s best to give yourself enough wiggle room so you’re not stressed when trying to meet deadlines.
Not only do you need time to record and edit the interviews, but you also need time to summarize or do some sort of write-up about it on your blog. I’ve seen some writers provide a transcript of the interview, however, I chose to tell my top three takeaways from each interview in my May series. Do your best to work ahead of schedule and batch as much of the process as possible. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later!
A great way to encourage interest in your upcoming interview series is to create promos. If you’re on a budget, no shame. You don’t have to hire a graphic designer to pull off stunning visuals. Try your hand at using some FREE 99 templates in Canva or Snappa. Or get a little creative and come up with your own design. 

When in doubt, go simple. Minimalism is all the rage these days, and a super clean design will help your audience focus on the important details. Speaking of details, don’t forget to include the name of the series (if applicable), the date(s), where they can find the interviews, and maybe even a teaser of who they can expect to hear from. 

When posting your promos, make sure to create separate images for each platform. Use the same image, but make sure the size is appropriate for each platform. Don't forget to also create a promo for your header on Facebook and Twitter! Here are some examples of something simple I created in Snappa to promote my May interview series.  

I used this image as my twitter header. don't forget to make room for your profile picture!

I used this image as my twitter header. don't forget to make room for your profile picture!

I used this image on instagram.

I used this image on instagram.

Now, I know this process may sound like a lot of work (and it is, lol). However, I want you to consider mailing handwritten thank you cards. It’s not a requirement, but it does add just the right personal touch. I tried to be secretive by looking on my interviewees’ websites and email footers, but alas, I had to spill the beans to a few of them. I really wanted to show my participants that I valued their time and I hope they enjoyed collaborating with me. Remember, friend. It’s all about building genuine relationships with others in your industry. 

Have you ever planned and hosted an interview series? What advice do you wish you had beforehand? Share your questions and cool stories in the comments below!

4 Ways to Improve Your Writing

there are external and internal strategies writers can use to improve their writing

What if you went to your high school reunion and realized none of your classmates aged? Seriously. As in, they are still 18 and you’re...older (not old though!). 
This scenario is ridiculous because we expect to age (graciously, of course!). The same is true in our writing. As we spend time journaling or practicing new short stories, we should expect to improve our writing skills. We should expect growth over time. 
Our writing careers cannot flourish if we remain stagnant and unwilling to take risks or experiment. 
There are external strategies you can try to improve your writing skills. For example, writers can attend a local or virtual writing workshop. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a virtual workshop hosted by Ashley Coleman of WriteLaughDream. What I loved about that workshop was its interactive nature. I was able to practice the skills Ashley taught immediately. I was also able to connect with other writers and receive feedback on my work. Writing workshops are a great way to learn new strategies and skills that can increase your productivity and help you become a stronger writer. If you’re looking for a writing workshop to attend, Ashley is hosting three this summer. You can find all the deets here. (no affiliate, just a lover of Ashley’s work)
Another way writers can intentionally promote growth in their writing is through reading. I am a huge believer in studying what makes “The Greats” great. Writers like Maya Angelou, Shonda Rhimes, and Angie Thomas fascinate me. While reading, I take notes on what speaks to me the most about their works. I look at their sentence structure, grammar, word choices, and descriptions. These notes help me discover which areas I could stand to improve. It’s also helpful to read grammar books which highlight specific rules that are commonly broken and used by amateur writers. 
Regardless of how many years you’ve been writing, it’s a good idea to elicit help from an editor or writing coach when needed. Editors and writing coaches point out specific areas you need to focus on. They are very knowledgeable of grammar rules and etiquette. While self-editing is great, there are times when you just need to call the professionals. Cutting corners and learning on your own can only take you so far. You should want your book to be as polished as possible.
Need help writing your book? I’ve got you covered! 
While there are external strategies writers can use to ignite growth, you certainly should not overlook the power of the right mindset. Without a strong mindset, no writing strategy can help you. You have to believe in yourself and the value of what you do. If you’re struggling in this area, grab your free writer mindset worksheet and gain clarity on what’s holding you back from sharing your work. 
I’d also like to invite you to join in on our 7-day writing prompt challenge, #TheWriteGrowth. In this challenge, we’ll learn: 

  • Why we write,
  • For whom we write,
  • What’s holding us back from embracing our full potential, and
  • What we can do to grow and reach our goals.

Join us on Instagram from June 21-27 for a week of self-awareness and connecting with other writers. 

Lessons from Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give

Have you ever read a novel that was so captivating you literally felt as if you were part of the story? You felt every emotion the characters experienced as you sat on the edge of your chair in anticipation of what was to come. 
That’s how I felt in the 11 hours it took me to read Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give. This was the first nonfiction book I can recall reading where I had a F.U.B.U. moment. The characters, setting, issues, and vernacular certainly feel as if this book was written “for us, by us”. 
Don’t get me wrong, friend. I’m not saying this book won’t be enlightening, captivating, and eye-opening for readers who aren’t people of color. Angie Thomas did an extraordinary job of writing an authentic and raw depiction of what many Blacks experience or feel about the injustices that persist in our country. I encourage everyone to read this book--regardless of ethnic background. In doing so, you will have a glimpse into what life is like for many Black/Brown people in the United States. 
There were a few themes that stood out to me in this novel: identity issues, people pleasing, and injustice. 
Like the main character, Starr, many Blacks feel the need to put on a mask everyday they go to work or to school. They live a double life because American culture teaches us to assimilate. Therefore we shun any cultural tradition or expression that contradicts what many in the majority consider “normal”. Instead of proudly embracing our cultural heritage, we choose to blend in like chameleons. I am not insinuating we should not be professional, but I do feel some of our identity issues center around a skewed perspective of what is socially acceptable. 
In The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas also points out our desire to become people pleasers. Several times, we see Starr struggling to be herself because she’s afraid of perpetuating the standard stereotypes against the Black community. Will her friends still like her if she shows her “true colors”? Or will she become “the loud, angry Black girl” who doesn’t speak properly? I know about this fear all too well. It’s difficult to be yourself when the chance of being misunderstood, judged, and treated unfairly is all too real. As a result, many people of color choose to cater to the ideal or preferred personality and lifestyle in exchange for acceptance. 
What we cannot accept, however, is injustice. In The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas writes about the injustice shown towards an unarmed Black male. I won’t spill all the tea (in case you haven’t read it yet), but I believe Starr wasn’t the only one who needed to decide how she would handle injustice. I think this is a question for you and me, friend. How would WE handle injustices that happen right in front of us? 
Would we turn our backs, close our eyes, and allow ourselves to be gagged in silence? 
Or would we speak out? Would we write about it? March about it? Take advantage of our right to vote? Or better yet. Get our ducks in a row so we could run for office. 

Change doesn’t happen without intentional action. 
Change also doesn’t happen when we refuse to work together with our brothers and sisters of ALL ethnic backgrounds. While I believe it is important to have pride and celebrate the great accomplishments of people of color, I also hope our world learns that injustice, prejudice, and racism remain because we have a heart problem. If we truly loved our neighbors unconditionally, there is no way any of us could speak, think, or do horrific and inhumane things towards each other. 
If you don’t take anything else away from The Hate U Give, remember this: everyone isn’t evil. All cops aren’t evil. Neither are all people of color nor Caucasians. Angie Thomas’ intentional pairing of an interracial couple is a reminder of this.   
Now it’s up to us, friend. Are we going to love each other unconditionally as we stand united against injustice? Or are we going to close our eyes and continue to cultivate the malice growing from within? 

What lessons did you learn from Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give? Share them in the comments below!