Saturday, February 18, 2006

Two posts on how to write better

Clicked! referred to a couple recent posts with suggestions on how to improve your writing.

John Scalzi, a professional writer, has a list of ten suggestions. He opens and closes with: read out loud what you have just written. If it doesn’t sound right, work on it, and read it out loud again, until it is understandable. I also liked suggestion eight, read good writing.

In response Lori Montimor, another professional writer, posts her suggestions. She says that John missed a key point; always try to use the active voice. Another suggestion which resonated with me is to write, and then sleep on it. It is good to have a fresh look at what we are writing. She also said it is good to have others review what we have written.

If you are trying to improve your writing, both of these posts are good places to start.


Christina in GA said...

I'm not a professional writer, but I would like to add something to Lori's post. If it's something short, like a blog post, sleep on it and check it out. But when I am trying to write something longer or actually work on a book, I find that if I continue to go back over what I've already written then I never seem to move forward. I think it's important to know where the story is going and finish it before polishing it.

christinemm said...

The writer should also not assume that the reader knows what they are talking about. The trick is to not be patronizing by explaining everything but to realize that the way we 'tell it' to ourselves may not be understandable to the reader. Know who your audience is and write to THEM rather than writing to ourselves (which would be a more like a private journal entry). Blogging is kind of a combination, though, as we assume we are writing to other like-minded people and the format is set up like a diary or journal. Bottom line: if we want what we say to be understood, explain it well enough to be understood.

Henry Cate said...

Thanks to both of you for the feedback.

Christina, I haven't written a book, so take this with a grain of salt: I heard that when writing a book it is best to get the first draft completely done, and then go back and polish it. If you start focusing on the first chapter, it is much harder to make progress.

Christine, good point. Someone once said that if they could explain a concept to a small child, then they knew the really understood the concept. Maybe I'll have to start having my young daughters read my posts.