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.
As I was making my reading list, going back over most of the things I've read the last few years I noticed how I wanted to re-read some of the really good books on that list. As I write this, Getting to Yes is spread open under my laptop cord and I'm trying to transcribe how hostile Persian negotiations can relate to getting my kids to wear the right clothes in the winter and pick up the dolls in their bedrooms. Both are diplomatic tightropes.
Among the great books on my list is Roy Peter Clark's Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. I've read this book cover to cover and in bits and pieces many times, but not recently. The book reminds me of my multimeter, not only because they are both green, but because they are tools I forget how to use. Just recently I was installing a new bedroom light and forgot how to measure an AC current. It's a basic mistake that I made because of infrequent use. It's the same with Writing Tools.
How to fix this then, use the tools. Each week for the next fifty weeks, I'll be sharing what the tool is, how I can use it and examples of its use. This will provide a nice refresher course on some tools for me, it will be a regular blog feature for you to read, and it will help us both appreciate good writing. (See that's The Language of Three, Tool #20).
Next week, Tool #1: Begin Sentences with Subjects and Verbs