Today’s post is an excerpt from 10 Core Practices for Better Writing. This comes from “Chapter Eight: Tools and Resources,” and it examines a writer’s need for a place to write.
A Place to Write
“You want to be a writer, don’t know how or when? Find a quiet place, use a humble pen.” — Paul Simon
Many books I’ve read on the craft of writing say that you should start by creating a special place where you can write. It can be an entire room or just a desk in a corner. Maybe you like to write at a local café or park.
It’s not a bad idea. A dedicated writing space can be free of distractions. If you can manage an entire room (some writers set up in a closet), you can keep others out when you’re doing your work (just put a sign on the door: “writer at work, do not disturb”). You can fill your space with the tools and resources you need (pens, notebooks, laptop, reference materials, etc.) and it can be decorated with whatever inspires you. Read more
It’s not possible to improve your writing overnight, unless you hire an expert to do it for you.
People study the craft for years, decades even, and still they strive to make each piece of writing better than the last.
Sure, there might be some quick tricks and shortcuts you can pick up and apply immediately, but these only improve your writing in small increments.
If you want to become a good writer (let alone a great writer), be prepared to make a long-term commitment to the craft. Read more
You know that feeling you get when you read a novel and become completely lost in it? You can’t put it down, so you lose track of time. When you finally finish, you wish it would just keep going.
Isn’t that the kind of story you want to write?
Over the past year, I’ve read only a few books that I couldn’t put down. Unfortunately, several of the books I started to read didn’t keep my interest past the first few chapters. There was a time when I forced myself to finish every book I started, no matter how boring it was. But I don’t have time for that anymore. My book pile is big and my reading list is long, so if I’m not compelled by the time the second act gets underway, I move on and find something more intriguing.
As a reader, I’m on a perpetual quest for better stories. What does that mean for writers? Read more
Have you ever read a sentence and wondered what it was trying to say? Ever gotten hung up on a word that felt out of place because the meaning of the word didn’t fit the context? When was the last time you spotted a word that was unnecessarily repeated throughout a page, chapter, or book?
There are two sides to any piece of writing. The first is the message, idea, or story. The other side is the craft of stringing words together into sentences and using sentences to build paragraphs. Adept writing flows smoothy and makes sense. Readers shouldn’t have to stop and dissect sentences or get hung up on words that are repetitive or confusing.
Which is why word choice is such an important skill for any writer to possess. Read more
By now, most of you have heard of the 10,000-hour rule, which was made famous in the book Outliers. The rule states that in order to become an expert at something, you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice.
In other words, a master writer has already spent 10,000 hours writing.
Working at it for 40 hours per week, it would take 250 weeks (or almost five years) to become an expert. If you can only spend half that time, or 20 hours per week, on your craft, it would take ten years to master. For people with busy lives and responsibilities (like full-time jobs and families to care for), it could take a couple of decades to master the craft of writing.
And why shouldn’t it? After all, an expert is someone who has put in the time to become proficient. And while some writers are born with talent, which gives them an advantage (maybe they only need 8,000 hours of practice to become an expert), even the most talented among us must practice writing in order to become true wizards of word craft. Read more
Today’s post is an edited excerpt from the introduction to 10 Core Practices for Better Writing, a book that aims to impart best practices in the craft of writing.
“When I’m writing, I know I’m doing the thing I was born to do.” — Anne Sexton
Words. They have the power to captivate the imagination, impart knowledge, express feelings, and share ideas. They are magical, and they are powerful.
A writer makes things out of words: sentences and paragraphs, essays and articles, books, poems, stories, and scripts. We use writing to create, communicate, share, and express ourselves. We use it to connect with people.
Writing is one of the most useful skills a person can possess. Think about how stories, speeches, films, and books have impacted society and culture, how they have shaped people’s thoughts and beliefs, and you’ll get an inkling of just how influential writing can be. Read more
There’s more to writing than pushing a pen across a piece of paper, and there’s more to being a writer than having written.
These days, everyone’s a writer. We write emails, text messages, and lists. A free blog is just a few clicks away. Self-publishing has drawn tens of thousands of dreamers who have scrawled stories and uploaded them to the web for all to read.
Everyone’s a writer, including you.
But how do you differentiate yourself? How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you make your words and ideas resonate with a reading audience? Read more
Thanks to “Weird Al” Yankovic, we writers now have our very own anthem. It’s called “Word Crimes.” Check it out:
“Word Crimes” covers a host of writerly pet peeves. And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, there’s a LOST reference (I happen to be a geek for the show Lost).
Is the Song Politically Incorrect?
The song “Word Crimes” was barraged with criticism from the moment of its release. Here are some of the criticisms it received:
- It’s mean spirited in ridiculing people who don’t know proper English.
- It’s nit-picking minor violations (for example, use of whom is on the way out).
- Some of the “word crimes” are not incorrect; they are colloquialisms or signs of a changing language.
- Blatant name-calling and humiliation: folks who commit word crimes are said to have been “raised in a sewer,” are called morons, and are invited to “get out of the gene pool.”
- Use of the word spastic also got some heavy criticism; apparently in British English, spastic is an offensive term for the disabled. But here in America, it means that somebody is hyperactive, obnoxious, and maybe a little bit nerdy. (Is anyone here NOT a little nerdy?)
While the criticism is warranted, it’s important to note that the piece is parody and satire. Much of Weird Al’s work is satirical. And satire is meant to poke fun and in some cases, offend. In 1929, Jonathan Swift wrote what has become a classic satirical piece called “A Modest Proposal,” which likened the English’s treatment of the Irish to eating their babies. Let me repeat that: eating their babies.
Satire provokes thought and dialogue by offending and making fun. And based on the criticism that “Word Crimes” has received, I’d say Weird Al has done his job. And in a most appropriate twist of irony, “Word Crimes” is also a parody of the song “Blurred Lines,” which was not a satirical song or a parody but was called “the most offensive song of the decade.”
Writing Forward’s Policy on Satire and Free Speech
Writing Forward advocates for free speech and opposes censorship (specifically, I oppose censorship by the government and through intimidation or acts of violence but support the rights of private parties to control content on their platforms). I believe that freedom of speech is a human right and is essential to all artists, including writers. People should be able to express themselves. But in doing so, they need to understand that they are opening themselves and their ideas up to criticism.
Conversely, people have the right to be offended. Considering the state of affairs in the world today, taking offense over a song that ridicules people who are bad at grammar is nit-picky itself, but if that’s what offends someone, then so be it.
As writers, it’s important for us to understand the tradition of satire as a way to make a statement and of using offensive ideas as a way to provoke dialogue and criticism. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on your personal preference), satire, along with shock and controversy, is becoming increasingly important as a tool for getting the public to engage in conversations about important issues.
Regardless of how you feel about “Word Crimes” or the song it was parodied from, I do hope you’ll agree that free speech is indeed a human right as is the right to be offended. We all have to live on this planet together and banning ideas and non-violent expressions of thought and emotion is a detriment to the future of humanity as is telling other people how they should feel.
What Do You Think?
Do you like the song and video for “Word Crimes?” Did you find it offensive? How do you feel about free speech and censorship? Have you committed any word crimes lately? Share your thoughts and ideas by leaving a comment, and may your writing be free of word crimes.
As for me, I really enjoy the song and the video for “Word Crimes.” We’re talking about language, and to anyone who’s up in arms over this song, I would say lighten up. We’re talking about words and grammar. The song makes this stuff fun and funny. If you really want to see something offensive, go back and study the song it was parodied on.
Today I’d like to share an excerpt from my book 10 Core Practices for Better Writing.
This excerpt is from “Chapter Ten: Community, Industry, and Audience,” which explains the benefits and importance of networking with the writing community as well as studying the industry and developing a reading audience. The chapter includes tips, too!
“All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” — E.B. White
Writers are notorious for spending hours in solitude, bent over our keyboards, laboring over prose and poetry. And when we’re not absorbed in our own writing, Read more
Today I’d like to share an excerpt from my book 10 Core Practices for Better Writing.
This excerpt is from “Chapter Nine: Creativity,” which offers insights and tips to help you stay inspired and creative as a writer. The excerpt I’ve chosen to share presents ten myths about creativity. These are notions about creativity that people assume even though many of them are counterproductive to creativity.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou
As a creative writer and as someone who wants to become a proficient writer, understanding creativity will be a great advantage for you. While it will certainly help with your writing, it will also show you how to see the world and people in it from new perspectives, and it will strengthen your problem-solving skills. Read more
By now, you’ve probably heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at anything.
There’s some debate as to the truth of the 10,000-hour rule, but there is definitely truth to the notion that nobody’s born a master at the craft of writing. It takes time, energy, and practice to become a truly proficient and professional writer.
Personally, I think 10,000 hours sounds about right, although some people will become experts at 7500 hours (those lucky talents!) and others might need to put in 15,000 hours before they’ve mastered the art of writing. It doesn’t really matter how much time it takes — if you want to become a pro, you’ll invest the time necessary to constantly and consistently improve your skills and produce better writing.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take toward producing better writing, and maybe these steps will help you become an expert just a little bit quicker. Read more
There’s only one way to become a better writer, and that is through lots of practice.
Some people are born with talent. Writing comes easily to them, but even the most talented writers have to work at the craft. After all, nobody’s born knowing how to write.
Fostering good writing habits accomplishes two things. First, good writing habits ensure that you write regularly, and as we all know, the only way to become a writer is to actually get the writing done. Second, by writing regularly, you get plenty of writing practice, and your work improves.
In other words, good writing habits are essential.
Adopt These Essential Writing Habits
Below you’ll find a list of essential writing habits that will benefit your writing skills. Try introducing one habit into your routine each month. By the end of the year, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert in all things writing.
- Establish a writing schedule and write daily if possible: Whether you write for three hours a day or fifteen minutes a day, daily writing is the most critical of writing habits. It’s better to write for fifteen or twenty minutes every day than to binge for five or six hours over the weekend, but if you can establish a daily writing schedule with longer sessions on weekends, then all the better!
- Don’t forget to read: I can’t stress how obvious it is when a writer is not well-read. Lack of reading will be apparent in every sentence. The importance of reading cannot be overstated: read as much and as often as you can.
- Finish what you start: One of the worst habits a writer can acquire is to never finish anything. Shiny new ideas are always tempting us away from our current projects. Don’t give in to temptation! Unless a project is absolutely going nowhere, wrap it up before you move on to the next one. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a vicious cycle and have nothing to show for all the writing you’ve done.
- Show your work: Speaking of finishing what you start — once it’s done, share it with others. Post a scene on your blog, send a poem around to a few friends, round up some beta readers and let them assess your project and help you improve it. And if you’d like to be a professional author, always keep your eye on the goal: publishing your work to the marketplace.
- Know your craft and industry: As a writer, it’s important to understand things like grammar, spelling, and punctuation as well as the importance of editing and polishing your work before you show it around. It’s just as important to familiarize yourself with the industry — from publishing to marketing. Make it your business to understand the craft and trade by working good habits into your schedule: edit everything you write, consult grammar and style guides when necessary, learn to properly format your documents, study the publishing industry, and make sure you understand the many ways that authors can market their work to a reading audience.
What Are Your Writing Habits?
Improving your writing is hard work. Maintaining a regular writing schedule is even harder, especially with so many distractions that are vying for our attention. Adopting these writing habits might mean making major changes to your routine. If you love to write, the work will be fun at times. Other times, you’re just going to have to grin and bear it, knowing full well that the ends make the means completely worthwhile.
If you want to be the best writer you can possibly be and produce great writing, then commit yourself to these writing habits.
How many of these writing habits do you practice regularly? Do you think your writing habits are good or bad? A mix? Share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences by leaving a comment.