5 Tips For How You Can Write More Vividly

Are you writing vividly or vaguely?When you get vague in your manuscript, the reader wonders, “What am I not getting here?” She reads and rereads your story and ends up frustrated and does not quite “get it.” The reader may well give up—on reading the memoir or on you

Here are a few ideas as to why vagueness may happen and some solutions for creating vivid writing.

1. The author is not sure herself what she is trying to say. She has not lingered with this part of her story to extract from it the essence of her meaning. Once she has meaning, finding prose that might do justice to the expression of her feeling becomes easier.

Solution if this is you: journal around the story, look at your photos, take a walk to ruminate about the events you have written about, ask yourself, “What exactly am I trying to convey here? What do I really mean to say?”

2. Perhaps the author has not used enough details. What is clear to him (because he has lived the experience) becomes a guessing game for the reader who was not there and has only a vague idea of what went on. The author will sometimes say, “I didn’t include that info because everyone knows that” in reference to something that belongs squarely in life as it was lived in time—say in 1957 or 1971—a vantage point that many of the readers may not find themselves standing comfortably in.

Solution if this is you: write as if you are explaining this story to someone from another country or another language group (read: culture). What additional details would you find yourself including to explain a hootnanny.

3. Writers will also sometimes ask, “”What do I do to keep the attention of the reader who does know the details of my story? Won’t that be boring?” Not necessarily. This author will have to write well, use metaphors and images, imbed the text with foreshadowing and suspense, use such precision that the reader feels she is entering the setting the author is describing.

Solution if this is you: write using all the elements of great style at your disposal. A big order but the better you become at it the more fun it will be. When I wrote in #2 above “a vantage point that many of the readers may not find themselves standing comfortably in,” I was using an image. I felt the rightness of this image to capture the meaning I was seeking to express.

4. Perhaps the author is not strict about pronoun antecedents. This can be a direct route to vagueness. The author knows that “she” refers to Emily but the reader wonders if it might also refer to Beth. The reader decides after a brief consideration that it does indeed refer to Beth and so the rest of the story refocuses into some grey since the “she” refers to Emily. The reader is trying to make the story refer to Beth and, in so doing, is growing increasingly frustrated.

Solution if this is you: Place pronouns and antecedent in proximity. Do not have another name of a person or thing between the pronoun and its antecedent. Never use a pronoun without an antecedent. (This us a surprisingly frequent mistake.)

5. Your sentences are too long and are difficult to interpret. Clauses and sub clauses begin to mush together. The sentence goes on for four or five lines, and the reader begins to wonder what the main verb is and where its subject is to be found.

While a writer may legitimately say, “I don’t want to write down to my readers,” the long endless sentence is not respecting your reader. It is not respecting a reader to force him to read and reread a sentence.

Solution if this is you: Break your sentences down into shorter pieces. After ten words, look to place a period. After fifteen, see if you can rewrite the sentence to become two. (Danger to avoid: too many short declarative sentences that create a staccato effect to your prose. Even a shorter sentence can be complex, compound, or even complex-compound.)

What are some of your ideas as to why a manuscript can be vague or your solutions for writing more vividly? Tell me in a comment below.

About the Author

Denis-LedouxDenis Ledoux is an author and teacher who has been helping people to write personal and family stories since 1988 when he began presenting a memoir-writing workshop which he called Turning Memories Into Memoirs™. In 1992, Denis took the obvious next step: to publish his flagship book, Turning Memories Into Memoirs/A Handbook for Writing Lifestories. He later also wrote Photo Scribe/ How to Tell the Stories Behind Your Photos. He is the creator of November is Lifewriting Month and the The Memoir Network.

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Photo courtesy of samuiblue | freedigitalphotos.net

About Nina Amir

Nina Amir, the Inspiration to Creation Coach, inspires writers and bloggers to create published products and careers as authors. Additionally, she helps her clients and readers achieve their potential, fulfill their purpose and make a positive and meaningful difference with their words. She is the author of How to Blog a Book, The Author Training Manual, and Creative Visualization for Writers, all published by Writer’s Digest Books. As a hybrid author, she also has published 17 books independently. She is a nonfiction book editor and doctor, proposal consultant, and an Author Coach and Trainer as well as a Book and Blog Coach. Some of her clients have sold 320,000+ copies of their books and been published by major publishing houses. Nina also is an award winning blogger and journalist, international speaker and founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month, also known as the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge, and the Nonfiction Writers’ University. Also a Certified High Performance Coach, Nina strives to help creative people Achieve More Inspired Results personally and professionally.


  1. linda Baker says:

    When my words are confusing, trip over each other, or seem too rigid, I do one or both of these:
    1. stop, get comfortable, close my eyes, breathe deeply 3-4 times, ask for help, carry on when it feels right,
    2. ignore my written words, clear my mind, then tell the story out loud to an imaginary person in the room. I usually end up using shorter sentences, clearer descriptions, and focus in quickly on key information.

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