Monday, June 10, 2013

Day 11 - How to be a better writer

I get many emails asking me for advice on how to write better.  Ironic, considering that I myself am on that quest!   Anyway, my general response is:  Read more, and write more.

One thing that really helped me was joining the Practice Group at  the Internet Writing Workshop.  Every week, you are given a prompt, and you have to submit a story of less than 400 words based on that.  Then, you critique others' work, and others critique yours.  Through this, I learned:

1) Economy of words - if you have to tell a meaningful story or a snippet of one in 400 words, each word counts.  And I think it has helped me choose my words well.

2) By critiquing others' work, I learned to observe how people wrote.  What worked, what didn't, and why. Very illuminating.

3) Critiques of my work - I agreed with most comments about my work. And they helped me improve.  There were a handful of experienced writers whose critiques I would wish for, and hope for, and when they did critique my work, I always learned so much.

4) I read other people's critiques of other people's works - and that was equally educative.

Apart from all this, you should realize that writing is not just, you know, start at line one, write the whole piece, put the pen down (figuratively), and you're done.  No way.  There are, I'm sure, people who can do that, but the majority of writers, even the big ones, have to slog it out.  The first draft is usually very different from the final version.  Writing is more of editing, and re-writing, and wondering how this could be said better.... it is hard work.

And it takes time.  Like Blaise Pascal said, "I'm sorry I wrote you such a long letter.  I didn't have time to write a short one."  Makes perfect sense!

And ever so often, the lovely picture you have in your head doesn't show up on paper.  And you agonize, and wonder why, when it sounded so great in your head, it is so bland when put in words.  And then you try and polish it, or give up on it.  So if this happens to you, don't worry, you are not alone.

So the next time I get a mail asking me how to become a better writer, I'll just point them to this post, because this is all I know.  And then I will go away to find out more about it myself. 

5 comments:

gowri said...

lovely thank you for guiding to the IWW page...

fabian fernandes said...

Thank you :)

Brinda said...

Very well put!

nagrajrao said...

So the long and short of it is that "make it short".

Shruthi said...

Gowri, hope it helps!

Fabian Fernandes, you're welcome :)

Amma, thank you :)

Papa, heh heh! :)

- -