Monday, March 3, 2014

On Writing

Took me longer than I expected to throw off that cold, mostly because it turned out to be a sinus infection.

I don't really have a topic for today, which is part of why this update is being written so late at night. But I was cleaning out some computer files earlier, and I came across something that I wrote over a year ago. One of my internet acquaintances had asked me for writing advice, and my answer was long and thought-out and I think I'm going to share it with you today.

Here is her exact question:

I hate my writing and wish I could see where/how I can improve it. I think it's boring and even hard to understand. I'm really bad when it comes to grammar. I'm aware you're super busy all the time, but I'd be so grateful (and appreciative and NOT taking it for granted) if you could offer a tidbit of advice my way? How do you get people to read your work? 

(She's so cute.)

And here's my reply, slightly truncated to remove personal bits that I'm sure she wouldn't appreciate my sharing.

How do I get people to read my work... it's hard for me to answer that, since somehow I ended up with my own fandom and I don't really understand how that came to be.

One thing I can say is that the best writers are usually also good readers.  Books about writing will help.  I particularly recommend Eats, Shoots and Leaves, by Lynne Truss, which is an excellent book about the technical side of writing; it presents rules of writing, mainly punctuation, in a humorous and easy-to-understand way.  Anything by the same author is good for improving the technical aspects of the craft, since you say that's a weakness for you.  I'd also suggest Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldman, and On Writing, by Stephen King.

As far as reading fiction goes, read the kinds of books that interest you and are most closely related to what you want to write.  Then try different things.  I didn't set out to be a writer whose work appeals to young adults, but somehow that's exactly what I'm becoming.  Real-world experience that connects to what you want to write is always very helpful too; I'm quite certain that part of my ability to write for teenagers and young adults can be traced to the years I spent as a church youth group advisor.  The bonus with that is that you can take your real world experiences, change some details to make it fictional, and use it in your writing.  Don't be afraid to borrow from the real world - the real world is fascinating.

My final and favorite piece of advice would be "Write with authority."  Write your story in such a way that even if you're bulling your way through the whole thing, you sound like you know everything about the subject and have every right to dictate that this is the way it is. Present the facts of the universe in which you are writing in such a manner, and the readers will believe you and be hungry for more of your wisdom. Even if the facts are completely off-kilter from what we know in our reality, you're establishing a completely different reality with the potential for a completely different set of rules. Don't try to justify your statements - just state them. You are the creator of this world; you dictate what is and what is not.

I hope this was helpful!  And I'm flattered that you asked me for the assistance, I'm happy to offer it.  :)

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