Style & Self

Six Ways To Be A Better Writer

28 Feb , 2013  

Six Ways To Be A Better Writer

Six Ways To Be A Better Writer

Between texting and twitter and emoticons and any other adulteration of the pen, well-done writing is on a quick path towards extinction.  Beyond understanding how to spell words and where to put the commas, writing is about the expression of one’s thoughts and ideas, mental images that, assuming those too aren’t becoming obsolete, still exist, waiting to be unleashed onto your keyboard or paper or whatever medium you chose to convey the feelings or directives hidden inside you. And, to help free those, here are six ways to be  a better writer.


1. Don’t assume anything you’ve ever felt is unique.
A classic flaw of many writers is believing that their pain is so unbearable, that their loneliness is so unfathomable, that it would be a crime to  use anything but the most intense adjectives . When this happens, the initial thought is dissolved amidst the hyperbole. Words like “infinite” and “endless” have definite meanings and if it does’n’t fit the subject matter, you’ll come off as a pretentious kook. Although the events may be exclusive to you, undoubtedly, the feelings you felt are ones that people can relate to.


2. You can use this to help you
People read for two basic reasons, to understand, or to be understood. If you’re not writing a scientific dissertation about meiosis in fetal shrews, you’re probably writing to convey emotions inside of you, and if those emotions can’t be related to by your reader, they will cast whatever it is you’ve done aside.


3. Stop telling me how it is, instead describe it.
Anyone can say “it looked like a tree” but that doesn’t really mean anything, it doesn’t expound upon reality at all. “Of course it looks like a tree” your reader will say, “but what makes this description unique?” You need to learn to  say how it is  instead of what it is. Try to write down what bark is and how it looks, but instead of saying “it’s the stuff that covers trees” write in in a way that someone who has lived their entire life in a desert would understand.


4. Please, please, please limit the use of adverbs.
Adverbs are the Bud Light of words.


5. A note on poetry: don’t sacrifice feelings for format
If you’ve got a thought in your mind of how it should sound, don’t warp its committed manifestation to make it rhyme. Of course, this list is entirely personal preferences and you might be someone who goes insane if  “you were a dove/ we were so in love” isn’t scribbled down, but, to me at least, changing your words to make them have the same ending is like going shopping and buying a shirt that doesn’t fit just because you like the color.


And finally,

6. Don’t be afraid that people will judge you.
Partially because it doesn’t matter and partially because it is inevitable.


Walter Blake Knoblock is the editor of The Great Lakes Book Project.

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