I’ve been writing since the early 90s, though I didn’t get published until 2005. I’ve learned quite a bit about how to be a better writer since I first began. And with each new book, I’m still learning.
What follows are five pointers I’ve learned through mistakes. Incidentally, a mistake remains a mistake unless you learn from it. If you learn from it, it becomes a lesson. Thus learning from your mistakes transforms them from being blunders into builders.
If you are a writer of any sort (from blogs to books), you may find these of help.
1. Use exclamation points rarely if ever. I’m 100% Italian. So I’m a passionate person by nature. When I preach about the Lord Jesus Christ, I can get very passionate. In my earlier writing, I used exclamation points to communicate passion and emphasis. Last year I was talking to Francis Frangipane. I mentioned in passing that I used to use exclamation points profusely, and he said, “That’s funny; I recently noticed how often I used them in my earlier work.” He also happens to be full-blooded Italian.
The problem with exclamation points is that some people misinterpret them as communicating anger. Instead of passion, they interpret the author as being mad. In addition, too many exclamation points can be a distraction to the flow of thought.
For that reason, you’ll find very few exclamation points in my published work. Pagan Christianity contains more than my other volumes, but not nearly as many as my earlier work had. Barna and I didn’t want Pagan to read as a sterile, heady, boring history lesson. Instead, the book was written with the fervor of the prophets of old. And you cannot write a book like that without some emphasis. At least not if you want to see people impacted and changed by it.
So if you are a writer who is passionate, beware the exclamation point. Use them few and far between.