When I was still giving writing workshops, one of the things that troubled me was that very many students had no idea how to use punctuation.
I taught them an amusing verse to show when to use the comma:
“A cat has claws at the end of its paws. A comma is a pause at the end of a clause.” It is important to use a comma correctly, otherwise meanings can be altered. For instance, if a restaurants put up a sign “No dogs please”, this becomes a generalisation , since many dogs do please their owners. It needs a comma after ‘dogs’ to make sense, that the restaurant requests you leave your dogs outside.
The colon and semi-colon are often misused. They propel you forward in a sentence towards more information. The semicolon lightly propels you in any direction related to the foregoing; the colon nudges you along lines already subtly laid down.
The exclamation mark ! In humorous writing, it is the equivalent of canned laughter.
Another problem many students had was that they were short of inspiration. I would suggest that they check out some local scenery and architecture, and then let their mind wander. Make the most of museums – full of art and artifacts to inspire you. Look through your desk drawers for old postcards, newspaper cuttings, maps, guides, and magazine articles you have kept. Reread your own favorite classic novels and consider how you could continue these stories after the author has written: The End.
Finally, write because you want to write, because you enjoy the process. Remember, publication is the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
If I can help you with any writing problems, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org Many of my 14 books are now available at discount prices, including my latest novel: “Searching for Sarah.” I’m always happy to hear your comments.