If You Want to Write: Writing as Art

When you write, think of painting a picture. It can be any picture you want, but think of the images that must be in the painting. For example, a beach scene.

Virginia Beach, VAIf you wanted to duplicate this picture, you would need to include the sand, ocean, and sky. You wouldn’t add clouds, the sun, an umbrella, etc. If you added those things, you may lose the tranquil setting this picture represents and change the meaning. Adding unnecessary items may distract your audience or lose them entirely.

The same is true in writing.

Adding unnecessary words, phrases, and punctuation can distract your readers or cause them to stop reading. Once that happens, conveying your message is almost impossible. Most studies agree that the average adult attention span is 8 seconds or 140 characters. Not words, characters. If that’s true, you would only read the first two sentences of this post before moving onto something else.

So, what does that mean to writers? It means we need to cut the crap.

In the chapter Art is Inspiration, Ueland discusses writing from our hearts and saying it like it is. She credits Russian writers, like Chekhov, who focus more on the truth rather than how they sound. Personally, I enjoy Russian writers for the same reason and believe that it is more effective to teach readers than sound like you have read the dictionary.

Here are a few tips to help while you write:

1. Don’t use words/phrases no one knows or ever says. Big words do not make you sound smarter or tell your reader anything about you – except maybe you’re over compensating for something. As you write ask yourself, “Would anyone ever actually say that?”

2. Only use adjectives and adverbs when needed and know how to use them. They do not improve your writing or ideas, and sometimes readers will think they are fluff.

3. Show don’t tell. Future post coming, but Ueland says, “… quietly describe what you are feeling. Don’t say your boredom was excruciating or agonizing, unless your own was, which is doubtful.”

4. Focus. Remember to only include what is necessary to convey your message. This tip applies to characters, setting, plot, words, objects, etc. You probably wouldn’t paint a mountain with a fruit bowl, so why would you add unnecessary words, details, or characters to your story? Everything should have a purpose.

Do you have any tips on editing? For more info, check out:

5 Tips on Editing Your Own Writing

Writing Succinctly

Writing for Web: Take a Break

It’ll still be there tomorrow.

I say this a dozen times a week to myself, co-workers, and friends when I see us running ourselves into the ground for work. Unlike most people, I love to work. However, you have to know when to shut the computer down, leave the office or house, and go have a life.

This week’s chapter discusses the revision process and includes a very important step: taking a break.

It’s very easy to let work consume us, especially if we’re excited about the project or obsessed with deadlines. When you’re writing, you have to know when to take a break or put the first draft down for a few days. Felder recommends these tips, and I added my secrets, too:

  • Watch a movie, good or bad. Sometimes a bad movie is just as good because you can tear it apart or make fun of it. Slasher movies are great for this. Reruns of your favorite shows are an option as well because they can make you laugh, cry, or reignite excitement.
  • Soak in a bubble bath. Relaxation can do wonders for your mind and body.
  • Pick a hobby. Hobbies are great for releasing stress and taking your mind off of your project. A good workout has the same effect and keeps you healthy.
  • Call or hang out with friends, but don’t talk about your writing. Just enjoy good company and maybe a drink.
  • Immerse yourself in nature. Stop for a moment and literally smell the roses, watch the sunset or moon, and wish upon a shooting star.

How do you decide what changes need to be made?

Once you are refreshed and ready, it’s time to rewrite. Felder’s tips for changing your perspective are very helpful, and I was surprised by her ideas. For the full list, check out Chapter 13.

  • Zoom in or out of your document. This either forces you to focus on one scene or the big picture.
  • Print a hard copy and read the entire thing from beginning to end. You don’t have to do this in one sitting; treat it like a magazine or book. Look for plot holes, confusing sections, and flow.
  • Read it aloud. You will hear how it sounds and decide if it drags or doesn’t make sense. I do this with every manuscript I read, and I recommend every author do this on their own before every giving it to an editor. Especially the dialogue.
  • Let someone else read it. Most of us do not like criticism, but if you are going to put your stuff out there, get used to it. Take the feedback gracefully, keep your negative attitude to yourself, and take suggestions seriously. The person who reads it is only trying to make it better.

This was one of my favorite chapters because it covered things that are as important as all the technical writing stuff. You must take care of yourself before you can do anything else. Stepping away for an allotted time will not only make your work better, it makes you better.

What do you do to take a break from work or writing? Share your tips!

Need a two-minute break, check out tough-guy Dean from Supernatural.