Michelle McLean has lived many places and brings a wonderful feeling of being rooted in time and place with all her books. Her voice is strong and clear and today she joins us to talk about writing with authority. Welcome Michelle!
The best advice on writing I’ve ever received is: “Write with authority.” ~Cynthia Ozick
This quote reminded me of a conversation I’ve had with a few friends. Especially those who write non-fiction. You know, it can be pretty intimidating to be seen as the expert on something…even if you ARE the expert. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that no one is going to take you seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously.
There have been many times in my life, in writing blog posts or articles, writing my non-fiction books, writing guest entries, answering questions on a variety of things, writing news releases and other things for my brother’s company, even in writing fiction, that I’ve sat there and thought, “What am I doing? What if I mess up? What if I don’t know as much as I think I know?” My doubts about my own knowledge and abilities have side railed me many times. There have been times when I’ve felt like a total fraud and I just knew that someone was going to call me on it.
But you know, I DO know what I’m doing. I’ve been writing for a long, LONG time. Do I know all the answers? Of course not. But I do know a lot. And what I don’t know, I research. I’ve got enough education and experience that I should be confident in my abilities. But that isn’t always the case.
You know how to deal with that? Fake it. Push through it until those feelings of inadequacy go away. No one is going to have confidence in you unless you have confidence in yourself. If you see yourself as the expert, as the authority, others will as well.
So, what is the easiest, most effective way of writing with authority?
It’s simple. With this one little act, your writing will go from sounding hesitant and unsure to being strong and authoritative.
Remove statements such as “I think,” “Maybe,” “I believe,” “In my opinion,” from your writing.
These phrases weaken your authority and calls what you’re saying into question. For example, look at these sentences:
1. I think you should put a thesis sentence in your introduction.
2. Your introduction must include a thesis sentence.
Both statements say the same thing, but the first one makes it sound more like a hesitant suggestion, like maybe you aren’t sure. The second one decisively gets the information across in a sure and authoritative way.
1. Maybe you should change the wording of this sentence.
2. The wording of this sentence would be stronger if you changed it.
1. I believe the right answer is B.
2. The right answer is B.
It’s simple…a minor little tweak, but the effect is profound.
This is now one of the main things I check when I edit my work. I do occasionally use these phrases if I’m trying to be gentle about something, like in critiques – but only if it’s something I don’t feel strongly about.
None of us have gotten where we are without learning a little something along the way. Put your knowledge out there. Make your statements, share your expertise. And don’t be wishy-washy about it. Even if you don’t feel 100% confident in yourself, write like you do. Write with authority and you will be seen as an authority.
Have you ever considered whether you write with authority? How do you make sure it is in your product?
WISH UPON A STAR
Ceri McKinley never stopped wishing that her ex-fiancé Jason Crickett would come back into her life. But when he finally does, he comes with a request that puts them both–and all of humanity–into jeopardy.
Jason only wants two things: to bury his brother properly and to convince Ceri to trust him again after he jilted her. But when Ceri agrees to help him get his brother back, they end up fighting for their lives as the second zombie uprising threatens them all.
Romance and non-fiction author Michelle McLean spent 98% of her formative years with her nose in a book indulging in her love of reading and research. Expanding that love into writing was inevitable. Michelle has a B.S. in History, a M.A. in English, and tends to be a bit of an organized mess with an insatiable love of books and more weird quirks than you can shake a stick at.
She is the author of the historical romances, To Trust a Thief, and the Blood Blade Sisters trilogy; zombie romance Wish Upon a Star; and Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers.
When Michelle’s not editing, reading or chasing her kids around, she can usually be found in a quiet corner working on her next book. She resides in PA with her husband and two children, an insanely hyper dog, and two very spoiled cats.
- Weekly Lecture Schedule October 28 – November 2, 2013
- Lesann Berry on Using Different Tools to Explore New Directions in Your Writing
- Writing With These Four Walls by Alex Kidwell
- Don’t Stop Believing! Words to live by – Karin Tabke
- Creativity, Writing, and the Ever-Changing Face of Publishing by Marilyn Brant