Friday, December 24, 2010
Rehashing Some Bare Bones Writing Tips
I'm certainly not your sage or your guru seeking to pass on the tried and true wisdom that I've inculcated and use regularly in my own practice. No, not at all. I'm here in the trenches with you. I'm learning -- and rehashing -- this advice as I move forward in my own writing endeavors. The path of the working writer is often plague with uncertainties and questions about one's legitimacy as a writer come up quite a bit. As I've said before, it can be helpful to revisit the basics from time to time. There are certain times when you actually gain a new insight from a hackneyed and worn tip. Let's see what you think about that.
Write What You Know - Ah, here we go. I'm starting with the "big one." I can't tell you how many times I've seen this tip. I swear, I think there has been a book writing about this one mega tip. All of the objections, all of the praise, and all of the careful thinking that have occurred because of this simple tip. Yet, it makes good sense. It's a good starting point for any writer to focus on those things they know the most about - or that you've become familiar with through research and the like. It comes down to establishing authority. This is how people will buy into the story you're trying to convey or accept the information you wish to convey.
Watch Your Adverbs and Adjectives - I'll admit this one trips me up often. It is a battle to draw together the right mix of strong nouns and verbs so you can eliminate many of those adverbs and adjectives that can protract your prose and make it clunky. Cut out most of those words ending in -ly and you're probably on the right track. Now, this can be a fine line for many of you. (Of course, for me, it's a more of a blurry line!) You may be thinking that if you cut out all of those types of words that your prose will lack the interesting descriptive details that make words worth reading.
Use The Active Voice (Or Avoid The Passive Voice) - This another of the "big ones." I was reading another article about the passive voice earlier today. Didn't think I'd be talking about it myself. Like "write what you know," using the active voice is a valuable tip for any beginning writer. The gist of this one is to have the subject of your sentence directly producing the action of the verb. The passive voice reverses this order. (Examples: Active voice - The boy hit the ball. Passive voice: The ball was hit by the boy.) Look at the source of the action. In this case, the boy is the active agent that "hits." By placing the ball front and center, you diminish the strength of the action.
Get A Handle On Your Grammar and Spelling - This tip is so basic that I almost skipped it. I could have talked about other aspects of the craft or may even addressed something like writer's block but I decided to get back down to the foundation. My advice to you is do what ever is necessary to address issues with spelling, punctuation, and grammar. These are the essential building blocks for any writer. Study the rules, get some books on grammar and usage (Strunk and White comes to mind), and just learn to proofread and self-edit.
Those are just four tips. I could have laid some more out there; the number of great tips is huge. Still, I wanted to give you something to start with. I close by wishing you luck in your writing endeavors. I also wish all of you a Merry Christmas. I'll be back with one last post on January 31st -- the last post of 2010. Until then, have fun writing.