Friday, September 5, 2014

Essential Aspects of Writing?

So, I totally stole the idea for this post from a forum I visit and post on called "Absolute Write Water Cooler." The original post can be found here for any interested folks.

What I'd like to do is this:
1) Choose a few of the answers from the original posters question on what to focus on to become a better writer.
2) Discuss my take on the answer.

You game? Then, read on.

Good command of the language and punctuation.

My comments: What exactly does this mean? A good command of the language. Does that mean that I understand all of those big and small, clear and tricky tricks and tips to the English language? Or, does it mean that I can use the English language to convey information well and easily understood. Because, a lot of times those two definitions don't line up. Even when all the rules of grammar are followed, understanding is not always clear. Now, punctuation, well, that's easy... or, is it? In fiction, often the rules of punctuation are fluid. Very fluid. Not sure how it works in non-fiction, but I expect about the same.

Depends what your weaknesses are.

My comments: Good answer. However, how does one know what, exactly, their weaknesses are assuming it isn't something obvious like spelling. Spelling is a big, giant, important skill. And, it is easy to know whether you are right or wrong. There is an ultimate source of all words - it is called the dictionary. Either your spelling is the one in that book or it isn't. Simple. But, what if spelling isn't your weakness. What if your mother thinks your weakness is dialog, but your editor is convinced it is character development. What about the first reviewer? He thinks you suffer with the tendency toward redundancy. Who do you listen to? Who is "right"? What if everyone is right.

Empathy. Clarity. Making sense.

My comments: Great! These are specific. But, what if I already do this. Do these things really matter so strongly that just perfecting them will make me a better writer? Does perfecting these three three skills make me the better writer in the larger scheme of things? Though, having posed those questions, I do think, for fiction writers, the empathy suggestion is a good one. If you can make others care as deeply about your characters as if they were real people as you are about them, then I say you've half-succeeded in life. The other half... a good story. But, good is objective.

Read. Read alot; read widely. And learn to listen. Really listen. And develop humility, courage and mental fortitude.

My comments: I used to believe this. That this was, truly, all it took. I don't believe it now. It is a good starting point, but definitely just a starting point... there is so much more out there that needs to be practiced to become a better writer.

Read a lot and write a lot. And remember when it comes to fiction that story is everything.

No, no, no, character is everything!

My comments: See, descension in the ranks! What if there is no "everything"?

persistence. endless persistence.
discipline (I have 2% of this, but when I have it, things happen)

My comments: Almost there. Persistence is a key. A very important key. I only started writing semi-professionally because of one persistent idea. It wouldn't go away. It wouldn't let me go away or give up. So, the idea's persistence paid off. Its persistence became my persistence. And, yes, discipline is needed. You have to want to write. You have to be willing to write. You have to, sometimes, force yourself to write. Even when life gets in the way. Even when you don't want to. 

And, in those final lines, comes my advice...

How do you become a better writer?

You write. That's it. Write. The more you write, the better you write. It won't happen overnight or even after a few years, but it does happen. Why? Because a writer, someone dedicated to writing, seeks out other writers. We have to... writing is a lonely business and humans don't like loneliness. So, writers reach out. We meet others. We read others. We talk to others. And, from those other writers we learn. Doesn't matter what we learn, but just learning, makes us better. Better people, better writers.

What do you all think?