I just finished reading On Writing by Steven King. I have learned some tips and tricks from the book and below are some of the excerpts that I highlighted while reading it.
It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.
In an early interview , a radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply—“One word at a time”—seemingly left him without a reply. I think he was trying to decide whether or not I was joking. I wasn’t. In the end, it’s always that simple.
Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over.
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.
Put your vocabulary and grammar on the top shelf of your toolbox, and don’t make any conscious effort to improve it. (You’ll be doing that as you read, of course . . . but that comes later.)
One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.
Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful. If you hesitate and cogitate, you will come up with another word—of course you will, there’s always another word—but it probably won’t be as good as your first one, or as close to what you really mean.
Verbs come in two types, active and passive. With an active verb, the subject of the sentence is doing something. With a passive verb, something is being done to the subject of the sentence. The subject is just letting it happen. You should avoid the passive tense. I’m not the only one who says so; you can find the same advice in The Elements of Style.
I insist that you use the adverb in dialogue attribution only in the rarest and most special of occasions … and not even then, if you can avoid it. Just to make sure we all know what we’re talking about, examine these three sentences:
“Put it down!” she shouted.
“Give it back,” he pleaded, “it’s mine.” “Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,” Utterson said.
In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:
“Put it down!” she shouted menacingly.
“Give it back,” he pleaded abjectly, “it’s mine.” “Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,” Utterson said contemptuously.
The latter three sentences are all weaker than the three former ones, and most readers will see why immediately. “Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,” Utterson said contemptuously is the best of the lot; it is only such a cliche, while the other two are actively ludicrous.
The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said. If you want to see this put stringently into practice, I urge you to read or reread a novel by Larry McMurtry, the Shane of dialogue attribution.
……let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.
……if you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.
Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.
All the excerpts above are from On Writing(Link to customer reviews).
At the end, I was wondering if there are any other books to help us improve our writing. If you know then please link it in the comments below so that everyone can benefit from it. Also, share some of your own tips and tricks that has helped you improve your writing.
Writing is messy. You go and you vomit all over this blank page, and then you go back and clean it up. It's a self-compiling, garbage collecting, recursive activity.
I don't consider myself a particularly good writer. I'm not disciplined, and I don't do it as often as I'd like. But here's what I do when I think I'm writing well.
I write drunk. I write when I'm emotional and imbued with absolute certainty. When I write, I write with conviction, as though by divine inspiration the Mouth of God itself is speaking through me.
And then I wait. When the emotions are gone, when they've been processed, I'll print the page and go back, and that's when the real work begins.
The other 80% of writing is editing. Is going back with a scalpel, or a sword if needed, and ruthlessly excising any unnecessary material. Flare is good, flare is fun, but your personality should not overshadow what you're trying to communicate.
And you do this over and over and over again, and that's how you write. And out of the multitudes I write, I hope that others will find at least one or two gems of importance and truth.
I try to write as if I was talking to a person. I try to use ways to get the reader to understand my point, and to do that I try to use various ways to describe my points so that one of those may click. I like to use examples and analogies so the reader can visualize the thoughts.
I have a family member that writes music. I think he is an excellent song writer, singer and musician. Most of his songs that have taken off in popularity have been songs about himself and his feelings. The listener feels or has felt the same emotion or had a emotional experience regarding the topic of the song. I hope that made sense.
For instance, one of my favorite songs of his is called "Resurrection". He wrote it for an Easter service for church. The song was about Jesus, but the lyrics were about him (or anyone) that has lost their way in life, been confused and had a feeling that the world they counted on had turned on them (like when Jesus had his creation of people turn on him). I can't even describe right now. I will try to post a link to the song if I can figure out how to do that.
Awesome. I "write through the break" by totally ignoring anyone who might read what I compose. Writing is best done from a place of total narcissism, world be damned lol. Authenticity is able to really come though. Works for me at least... might give it a shot...
I'd also recommend writing every day. You don't necessarily have to publish everyday, but I've noticed it becomes easier to put pen to paper when it's a daily habit.
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Total Focus; Total Enjoyment by Tynan, as told to Sebastian Marshall
When I turned 30 and I had a minor freak out… I thought, "I'll be 40 in not long, and then 50… there's things I want to do in my life, and they're not happening at this pace."
Before that, I had a general idea of things I wanted to do and have in my life, but I went about in an unstructured way. It was good in a lot of ways. It made be a broad process, but not much depth.
Learning a new language can be on of the most difficult yet rewarding things one can do with their time. If done correctly, one will fail numerous times, be able to express themselves in unique ways and have easier access to a new culture. Currently Language-learning has been quite the rage, with services such as Rosetta Stone and Rocket languages selling like hotcakes and blogs such as fluentin3months having massive success. New services, such as duolingo and italki are changing the landscape of language learning business and making language learning ridiculously cheaper, and more accessible to everyone. I’ve undertaken learning 3 different languages, with varying success in each, but with each subsequent one being much easier to learn. I’ve tried to see how fast the human mind can learn a new language, especially ones that are radically different from ones native tongue. Currently I’ve learned a good amount of Japanese, Chinese and German, with my Japanese and German being significantly better than Chinese, but still not good enough to be able to have effortless conversations, which means I must keep pressing on.
I’ve found learning languages to be a very dynamic process. Each language has its own way of expressing itself, Some are very clear, cut and use short, direct words, as I have found to be the case with Chinese. Others are more vague, longwinded, or emphasize particular things, such as Japanese having a verb ending that signals the completion of something. Regardless, learning a new language will definitely bestow you with a new way of looking at the world. Here I want to share 4 things to keep in mind that have radically helped me when learning languages.
1. Spend sometime understanding the aspects of the language you are about to learn. Specifically try to focus on sentence structure and how meaning is added to the sentence. For example, German is very similar to English, it is subject-verb-object (sometimes its gets mumbled up, but for the most part it is), is preposition heavy and is written in the same scripture, which makes it significantly easier to learn than say Japanese or Chinese. But German is also high agglunative, which means it building meaning by joining words together. German also has an emphasis on cases and gender that is not present in English.
This might seem obvious, but it is very rarely done. Before you embark on the journey of learning a language and learning detailed grammar rules for a specific cases focus on things such as how nouns relate in the sentence, where conjugation happens, and how important is it. A good exercise is usually to get sentences with varying structure and translate them into your target language, something tim ferris suggests in the 4-hour-chef. Exercises like this allow you to find the pattern that will most likely hold true in 80%+ of all sentences. This is makes for a very solid foundation that would otherwise take weeks if one were just frantically reviewing, and learning step by step, instead focus on what the majority of sentences look like, dissect the key elements, and apply them.
2. Find and use a handful of excellent resources at a time; get involved in online communities. The most important thing to keep in mind when one is beginning to learn a language is to find high-quality resources. Find online communities for your target language by googling something like “learn german forum” and see what people are saying, which books their recommending etc. Another good way to find solid resources is to go on Amazon see which books in your target language have good reviews/sales. When I started learning my first foreign language, Japanese, I bought 4-5 books on Japanese, enrolled in two podcasts, had various decks in my flash card program, ranging from beginner to advanced, and used 4 different websites. This was a HORRIBLE idea. Not only was grammar, and vocabulary introduced at different times in each book, but managing progress was very hard, with notes in one book, flash cards, on my computer, and trying to juggle which activity I should do next.