Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Writing Well

Writing Well
Robert A. Hall

There are four rules to being a good writer:

1. You must read a lot. And you must read different writers, not just one. The aspiring fiction writer who reads only Steven King soon sounds like a poor version of King. Reading different writers helps you develop what writers call “your voice.”

2. You must write a lot. Like any skill worth having, writing takes practice, alas. One good way to practice without subjecting yourself to critics is to write family essays. How you met your spouse. What your kids were like when you were little. What your career has been like. What you did before you were married. Your participation in community service organizations. Your time in the military. The bonus is that the family will treasure them, even if they are never published anywhere.

There are, naturally, books on this, which you can probably get through your library. I haven’t read any, but here are a few:

3. There is no such thing as good writing, only good re-writing. Revise, revise, tighten and revise. A columnist I read said he never finished a column, he just ran out of time. I know what he meant. When I reread an article, column, or book I wrote, I always think about ways I could make it even better.

The Elements of Style, a well respected short guide to good writing, says “Omit needless words”! It, too is worth reading.

4. Every writer, even the best, needs an editor. Publishing books like I do through Amazon is cheap, easy and quick, but my editors are volunteers, not professionals. Thus there are typos, the bane of my life, and things that could be tighter or clearer. But a volunteer, non-pro editor is still better than no editor.

There are few things more correlated with professional success than the ability to write well. It’s good for personal satisfaction, as well. And in my case, it feeds a very demanding ego!

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