Most of the talk up to this point has been about how to write: what programs to use if you use them at all, what your routine consists of when you write, that sort of thing. And while all of this is essential to the writing process, it’s like the exterior of a house. While it looks beautiful on the outside, on the inside it may actually be a neglected frat house. It doesn’t matter how you write if you don’t fully understand how to write.
Roy Peter Clark, a writing teacher who became a senior scholar and vice president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, wrote an article that consisted of tips that are essential for every writer to take heed of if they are looking to hone their skill, rather than just churn out novel after ridiculous novel.
Some of the tips given are rather elementary: start sentences with subjects and verbs, put the strongest words in the beginning of the sentence, beware of adverbs. These are basic grammar tips that we learn almost as soon as we learn how to write, even though we may not even known that we’re learning them. But some of the tips are a little more complex. A few of them that I find very interesting are:
- observe “word territory”; give the important words space and don’t repeat emphatic words unless it’s for a specific effect
- be as specific as possible; give the breed of dog or type of beer, or even if the sandwich bread is toasted
- look for original images; don’t settle for something cliché
- when the topic is serious, understate; do the opposite for topics that are less serious
- control the pace of the story by changing the length of your sentences
- use a scene or quote to reveal characteristics, rather than simply stating them; in other words show, don’t tell
- space special effects throughout the story, and encourage your readers to find them