Thursday, September 26, 2013

25 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING IN 30 MINUTES A DAY – CONTINUED

13. Clarity
You have to lead your audience through a tapestry of facts, ideas and events. No matter what you’re trying to get across, you have to get it across, so keep it simple—unless complexity improves it.
In 30 minutes, examine your work for the following:
·         A Stake in the Action: Readers need one. Drop the first shoe early to get them listening for the second, and give them something to care about.
·         Logic: It’s the most important element of clarity. If you’ve written something that doesn’t quite connect, try saying, out loud, “What I’m really trying to say is …” and then finish the thought. Sounds crazy, but it usually works.
·         Bumps in the Road: Check your work for brilliant phrases that you’d love to use somewhere, anywhere—but that interrupt the momentum. I used to cut and paste my elegant gems into a “futures” file; it rightfully became a cemetery.
·         Verbosity: Avoid longish, meandering quotations by paraphrasing. Save the quotation marks for particularly revealing or quotable statements.
·         Jargon: Save it for cocktail parties—unless it’s the everyday language of your audience.
—Spikol
14. Effective Details
The key to effective description is to realize the importance of contradictions. The telling detail is almost always one that at first glance doesn’t seem to fit, but by its being there creates the unique whole that the object or action or person represents.
Go to a good people-watching spot or a place you want to describe. What’s the thing that doesn’t quite belong? Pair one or two more typical attributes of the thing/person/scene with this anomaly, and judge the impression. If it differs from what you meant to describe, figure out what’s missing. Add as few details as possible.
A related point: Often, we read a description and think, If this is there, then that has to be there as well. Many writers then think that both details must be included, but usually the opposite is true. Provide the stronger, more typical of the two, and the other is implied; the reader’s mind supplies it automatically.
—Corbett
15. Creativity
Creativity is the secret sauce of the writing life. Its ingredients are different for everyone, and may change over time, which can make it difficult to keep the cupboards stocked. When you get stuck, take 30 minutes and try one of these:
·         Switch genres. Write a poem before diving into a narrative piece.
·         Review incomplete writing for a scrap of idea or language; let it lead you in.
·         Burn kindling. Keep a file of art, poems, quotes, pressed flowers—whatever ignites your imagination. Sift through it when you need a spark.
·         Grow your own list of triggers. Repeat what works until it doesn’t; then try something new.
—Cohen
16. Simplicity
The great film director Billy Wilder was once asked if he liked subtlety in a story. He answered along the lines of, “Yes. Subtlety is good—as long as it’s obvious.” The same can be said about complexity and simplicity. Some stories are so complex that it’s frustratingly impossible to understand them. But others (like Wuthering Heights or Bleak House) are complex in a way that we don’t find difficult to understand, and actually find enjoyable because of the complexity. Conversely, Hemingway’s famous simple style is in fact very complex.
What really matters is whether or not something is clear. Each day, as you revise the pages from your prior writing session, take a few minutes to ask yourself, “Is this clear? Will the reader understand it?” If you’re not sure, revise until the answer is yes. Don’t be afraid to deal with a complex topic in a complex way, but always keep in mind that clarity will make you the reader’s friend.
—Morrell
17. Avoiding Clichés
Everyone “gets” clichés. That’s why they show up virtually everywhere. Clichés may be thought of as overused and predictable, but few people complain about movie car chases. For every person who doesn’t want “same old,” hundreds continue to enjoy stereotypical hard-boiled dicks helping dames in distress. Depending on your audience, a well-placed cliché can be more effective than an explanation.
Nevertheless, we need folks like you to buck the trend. So here are some ways to spend a half-hour:
1.     Create a cliché-free protagonist: you. Choose a career you once contemplated. Change your age, gender, race. Investigate something that intrigues you. Invent a situation that boosts your heart rate. Send your character to a place you’d like to visit. Now write.
2.     Remove from a work unnecessary parts of speech—such as replacements for the perfectly acceptable said, and words like angrily to reveal how someone slams a door. Say no more than readers need to know; let their imaginations work.
3.     I’ve intentionally loaded my five contributions to this article with more than my usual share of clichés. Circle them. Do it now. The early bird gets the worm.
—Spikol
18. Communication
Good writing connects with readers. For each piece you write, ask yourself:

1.     Who is my audience? Imagine the people you’d most like to reach.
2.     What do I want the experience and result of this piece to be? What do I want readers to know or believe? How do I want them to feel? What do I want them to do when they’re finished reading?
3.     How will I measure my ability to deliver on these goals? Workshop it in a writing group? Post it on my blog? Submit it to a publication?
Pay attention to feedback. You’ll start to see the types of people and publications that are attracted to what you write, how you’re meeting their needs (or not), and opportunities for becoming more effective.
—Cohen
19. Tension
Tension results from two factors: resistance and ambiguity. In nearly every piece of narrative writing, fiction or otherwise, someone is trying to achieve something. Tension results from external or internal opposition to achievement of the goal (resistance), or uncertainty as to the narrator or character’s understanding of the situation in which she finds herself (ambiguity), specifically its perils (psychological, emotional, physical).
Tension is essential because it keeps readers reading. Thus, in every scene you write, strive to heighten tension by doing one of two things: Enhancing the forces impeding achievement of the goal, or confusing/complicating the narrator or character’s understanding of the situation.

At the end of every writing session, take time to find and stress those elements within the narrative that serve these purposes. Trim away elements that do not, unless they add necessary color.
—Corbett

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