You’re Writing it all Wrong… Maybe Not!

Do you know what the common thing about all creative people is? They’re all different. That’s the difficulty with trying to teach someone writing. The way I do it may not work for you. Have you even been told you don’t write the right way? There are rules for grammar, punctuation, and organization. Those are the agreed upon road signs that let the reader know where they’re going. But, how you write is as individual as you are.Writing - The Tools

However, certain sayings get repeated as if they were truth rather than tools for getting the job done. For instance, some people prefer a 13-ounce hammer and others prefer a 16-ounce hammer, but both will hang a picture. I hope discussing a few of these tools will free you up to accomplish your goals, your way.

Show, don’t tell

This is helpful. I’ve even discussed it before, but then again, it’s mostly for fiction writers. Perhaps you’re a great technical writer, or a how-to book writer. The bulk of those types of writing are “told”. You may still need the ability to illustrate with an analogy or story, but you can learn to weave a few of those in.

The Underlying point: Draw the reader to your writing and keep them reading.

Don’t edit as you go

I also hear “don’t edit anything”. Make a mess, and clean it up later. After several drafts, you finally have copy ready for your editor. Sometimes I do write as fast as my fingers can type– sometimes I don’t. It depends on my mood, and the type of writing I’m doing. Sometimes writing and polishing it as I go along helps me clarify my thoughts.

After all, those squiggly MS Word lines demand attention. Don’t they? Sometimes I do turn them off,* but I prefer to leave them on and see mistakes as I go along. Often fixing a jumbled sentence right then (that the grammar-check kindly pointed out) helps me with my structure later in the piece.

When I’m in this frame of mind, it would slow me down more to know that I’ve made several mistakes and not taken care of them. As long as you end with clean finished copy, do what works for you.

  • *Make those red and green lines disappear! In MS Word 2010: Go to “File.” Select “Options” and then “Proofing.” Clear the check-box next to “Check Spelling as you type.” Then clear the check box “Mark grammar errors as you type.” Bingo! It will still auto-correct some words.

The Underlying Point: Get started. Refine it until it’s finished.

Write every day

Some insist you can’t be successful without writing every day. While I write most days, I do take a day off. There are successful writers who don’t write daily. In another post, I discussed the book Time to Write. In the book, hundreds of writers discuss how they find time to write. A legitimate style discussed was the blitz writer who blocks out certain times during the week and writes actively during those times. Some only wrote on the weekends. If that’s what works for you, that’s great.

The Underlying Point: Be consistent.

Be obstinately organizedWriting - hooks- organize

I like some things out and close at hand when I’m working. I’m visual. I want to “see” what I’m looking for without having to hunt for it. I’ve gotten better over the years. I’ll put most of it up when I’m done. For certain folks, being overly organized stifles creativity. For some, planning every minute gets them moving; for others, it is so restricting they can’t get started.

The Underlying Point: Find out what kind of organization works for you.

 Read every day

Some writers say read educationally every day. This doesn’t always work for me. I like to have blocks of time to read. I’d rather wait until I have time enough to sit and read several chapters and comprehend what I’m reading. I read often, but I don’t always do it every day.

The Underlying Point: You will improve your writing by reading.

Start small

You also hear “start with the small markets”. Get several credits then wait a couple of years before you try for those bigger markets. I’m all for learning the ropes, but if you have an idea you think is perfect for a larger market, go for it. Trying a variety of different-sized markets will help you get over your fears quicker. Don’t quit too soon because you get a few rejections.

The Underlying Point: Know your market and learn your strengths.

Write what you know

It is true, you will write more passionately and easily about things you know about or have experienced. But, you’ll reach a point where you’ve written everything you know. The best writers are curious. I think the addition to that rule should be, “Always strive to know more than you do at any given moment.” Never stop learning.

The Underlying Point: Understand the topic thoroughly before you write about it.  

Write in silenceWriting-Computers and Coffee 2

Some people hate silence. Having grown up in a home with five kids and two adults, sometimes utter silence seems strange to me now. Most of the time I relish it; other times I want a radio or other white noise in the background. Occasionally, I turn on a program which makes my computer keyboard sound like an old-fashioned typewriter because I like that sound.

The Underlying Point: Do what it takes to focus on your writing.

Work on one thing at time

I do believe you can only focus on one project in any one moment. But some folks like to have two or three projects going at the same time. When they get stuck, instead of throwing their work across the room, they work on something else for a while. After a break, they feel challenged to come back and finish the first item.

The Underlying Point: Finish what you start.

Don’t be afraid to challenge how something is “best” done if you have a different way that produces good results. So, which do you prefer: the 13-ounce hammer or the 16-ounce? I give you permission to swing away. It’s true that there are some things that can only be done one correct way. Thankfully, writing is not one of them. Isn’t that freeing?

Have you ever felt like your hands were tied when someone told you that your way was wrong? Leave a comment below.

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12 comments on “You’re Writing it all Wrong… Maybe Not!
  1. Nina Kaytel says:

    People see me in a wheelchair and think I’m full of inspirational, heartwarming stories of over coming the obstacles presented, but I’m not. I cringe at the advice ‘write what you know.’ It is so limiting and borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring. I want to explore the worlds I create and not be bound to reality.

  2. Deanne says:

    This is so true! There are so many different ways of approaching writing that for someone to say “this is the one way” just isn’t realistic. I tend to grammar/spell check as I go, but the main editing comes after I’ve finished. I’m not a writer who can throw out a first draft and start afresh – I like to keep what I have and build on it. I read every day, but I don’t always write every day – just depends on the day! It’s good to be reminded that each writer should approach their craft how it works best for them. Considering others’ advice is good, but that advice shouldn’t make us jettison a system that works (for the most part!). Thanks, Peter!

    • You’re welcome Deanne, I am glad to know that it reminded we are each unique and can use our gifts in the way that works for us. It is good to gather advice, but it’s also good to know ourselves well enough to filter it.

  3. I love reading tips, I find some of them ring true and some just don’t work for me but hey I’m creative like that! For example, to be at my best, I need peace and quiet – no cafe writing for me, yet for some I know the bustle is a great source of inspiration.

    Great to meet you, Peter and thanks for stopping by my blog. Always good to get to know a fellow purple fan!

  4. Julie Luek says:

    A great perspective on digesting all the rules out there– there are usually nuggets to take-away! And thank you for stopping by my blog.

  5. MishaBurnett says:

    I get very tired of reading articles on writing that say that a writer MUST start with a bad first draft and then rewrite it over and over until it’s good. That may be how some people write, but that doesn’t work for me. I don’t do drafts–I sit down and start at the beginning, write through to the end, and then I’m done. I go back and check for spelling and grammar errors, but my books are pretty much exactly how I put them down. I work on getting the phrasing right as I am composing–it takes longer to do my initial draft, but I don’t spend time doing rewrites.

    • Glad to know that this struck a cord with you. I know that you mentioned that particular point once before. As I tried to show underneath each point they usually had a good intention, but sometimes you have to dig to find out what the success principal is rather than just copy someone’s action.

  6. A says:

    Great tips. I should use them!

    Well, most of them. Writing what one knows is great unless one is too close to the subject. As an example, I’ve been involved with aviation since I was a teenager, but I won’t write about flying. I find that my love for it runs too deep, and I can’t articulate the magic of flight at all.

    And I do edit as I go, mainly because I have a mind like a colander, and I forget what I was trying to say if I get too far past it. The essence of expression is lost, and I have found that it can’t be regained.

    So…my first draft is usually very close to the final draft, except for stylistic improvements.

    And I write with my laptop balanced on a tray table…in a kennel, with 22 dogs within 30 ft. Sometimes it’s quiet.

    And sometimes I have a 60-lb Pitbull sitting in my lap as I try to write.

    • Hi Andrew. There were kind of anit-tips weren’t they? The point was find what works for you and do it. Oh and in your case work around the (60-lb) obstacles. 🙂 That could be quite a challenge.

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