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  1. 1. BETTER WRITING Ten things every writer should know, but many don't
  2. 2. Index
  3. 3. Keeping the lessons you were taught And forgetting some, too
  4. 4. What we were taught as children… What to forget What to remember Loading your Proper sentence   paragraphs with detail structure. is the key to good  The basics of writing. grammar. That you must always   All the books, from do your very best. the classics to That proper spelling is everything else you  everything. read. Endless vocabulary  Assessing  lists. literature, which Click on the arrows to proceed to the slide on each hopefully you did a lot lesson. of.
  5. 5. Click to return A kitchen is a kitchen. Starting probably around the sixth grade, you were (probably) told that description is  what makes writing good. To show, and not to tell. While showing and not telling is, and always will be a primary trait to good writing –  heaping on endless amounts of detail actually is not. Eventually, stretching out the description of something gets dull. Your goal as a writer  is to avoid lulls. Which is better?   “John entered the kitchen, and instantly was bathed in an ocean of sounds and smells, each new wave bringing a flurry of excitement. (or)  John entered the kitchen, it‟s walls were tiled in deep browns and speckled white, in the center was an enormous with a deep stone basin for washing the expensive patterned china housed in a hutch nearby. Neither of these are bad in the least, however the second example forms a  paragraph worth of description, description that could have been better suited (and would have turned out more exciting) if spread out over a page of exploration of the kitchen. One makes a good opener to a new setting, one makes for a dull but very explanatory description of it. Description is a name-your-own-game business, certain times call for different types.  Be aware that long drawn out descriptions, while they may hit on every detail – they give you less freedom to describe selectively and in spurts. Short and sweet is better than long yet covering. Use your own discretion! 
  6. 6. Click to return Doing your best The consensus is that „doing your best‟ means pushing yourself to the  very limits of your abilities. Doing your best needs clarification. Doing your best is pushing yourself to  the very edge of your limits, and anything beyond that is going above expectation. Your expectation of yourself should be to do your best as a writer.  This isn‟t the same as being J.R.R Tolkien, this is being the best you can be.  Write on a level you already have a mastery over, and slowly increase  your knowledge of writing to go „up a level‟. The worst writers are the ones who try to write on a level they cannot yet  do well on. Push yourself to achieve new things, but don‟t try to be something you  aren‟t yet. Everything needs time, and you‟ll have less writing to be ashamed of if  you just try your best in what you know you can do well, and move up It‟s just the base on which from there! Foundations are everything, don‟t ever forget that.  we Work our way
  7. 7. Don‟t slave over the useless to return Click things. editing is That‟s what for. While spelling is important just in general, it‟s not a  necessity the second you write.  Really,spelling is my vassal to the real topic, and that‟s… Don‟t sweat the little things now, wait for later.   Let‟s face it, we all like to wile away our time on making our papers looks pretty. Getting the margins right, putting in fancy drop caps, finding perfect fonts, and messing with margins. put, these are all things that could be done later – and  Simply right now your using them to avoid writing.  And since writing often will undoubtedly be the main goal
  8. 8. Click to return Vocabulary is good. Words that nobody has ever heard aren‟t. Defining your audience is one of the first steps to preparing  to write. Ask yourself… Would my audience be expected to know this word? If yes…  Am I positive I know what this word means? If yes…  Is this word really necessary? If yes…  Would any majority need to pull out a dictionary, even just to be sure? If no…  Did you craft the sentence specifically so you could showoff that you know the  word? (Be honest!) If no… It‟s okay to use the word.  Let‟s face it, people love to use those big words. Simply  enough, sometimes sticking in the “one dollar” words is just irritating for a reader. Always write on a vocabulary both you and your reader should be  able to understand, while retaining your ability to be invigorating. Never, ever craft sentences around words. Make them around lots  of things, but not specifically so you can use „ostentatiously‟. As a note, „ostentatiously‟ means in a show off type manner, and really  isn‟t that hard of a word, but it‟s all I could think of.
  9. 9. Click to return Fragments aren‟t sins. But still, use them sparingly! I need to find a new roommate. Because the one I have now isn't  working out too well. If you can identify why the underline is a fragment, then you do not need  this section. Learn to combine and you will be fine.  I need to find a new roommate because the one I have now isn't working  out too well. This combines the two above sentences into one, much better sentence.  A fragment sentence isn‟t a bad thing. It‟s just a technique that you  need to use sparingly. Understand the natural flow of a good sentence, the „read once‟ to  understand factor of good sentences. Nhamo felt chilled by her wet dress cloth  This sentence only had to be read once to be understood, Nhamo was cold  because her clothes were wet. Were as “The wet dress cloth that chilled Nhamo was unpleasant” is easily perceived as „backwards‟ As a general rule, giving the subject first and then the description of is usually  more effective than vice versa. Not always, but, often enough this is better.
  10. 10. A period, a comma, a question to return Click mark. sure this is a Are you question In the endless amounts of critique I have offered both  online and offline, the number one most caught issue I find has always been grammar. No educated person has the right to forget periods, or  question marks.  The average joe can sometimes be confused about commas, and thus this is forgiveable. I do not teach lessons in grammar, as most simple rules  you should have learned in elementary English classes. I can however, out of the kindness of my heart, provide you  with a lesson. to-grammar-and-writing.html Just as a note, I don’t agree with all of the thoughts presented on  that site – but it is a very complete guide to many facets of
  11. 11. By reading, you can write. Click to return Because whether your getting it right or not, somebody is! Published novelists, as the term „published‟  implies, clearly had something going for them.  Observe and remember books you have read, take note of things you enjoyed about those books – and the styles and themes presented.  Incorporate what you liked from other literature into your own, and from now on take very careful note of how authors construct chapters, paragraphs, and even sentences. But that‟s like…like plagarism!   No, it‟s learning. Your not taking ideas, your not copy and pasting anything – your noticing structures and imitating them with words that are your own.
  12. 12. Click to return Themes actually are important. And just so unfortunately versatile. In English, you probably didn‟t care.  But the themes and ideas of your writing are important. All  well written literature, from a short story to an 800 page novel should have a theme, and you as the writer should keep that in mind while you write. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess had a theme, it was to be open  minded to new things.  Harry Potter all had a theme, it was the desperation to live forever, and it‟s meaning. These themes, no matter how subtle, are  subconsciously addressed by readers. Whether they recognize them or not, any well written piece will convey themes and meaning. If you cannot draw a theme from something you have 
  13. 13. Habits All Good Writers Develop Some more grueling than others. This lesson contains „extra‟ slides on each topic. Click the to move to the extended explanation.
  14. 14. Words are your soldiers. Granted, you may or may not win any wars. Despite the fact that an endless vocabulary simply for  the sake of showing off is bad, commanding a wide army of words to deploy in your writing is still very neccesary. Keys to increasing your vocabulary:  Read, read, and read more. Glean words from context, and  make sure you mark them to look up later for exact definitions. Commit to memory.  Define words you have „vague‟ understanding over so you can use them more actively.  Actively use a thesaurus. Don‟t let yourself go under the impression that the only  way to increase your vocabulary is to spend grueling hours looking words up in thesauri and dictionary. You can learn new words as you read them.
  15. 15. Writing Often This is easily the hardest habit to obtain. Simply  enough, writing as a hobby usually falls pretty low on our list of things to do.  Make time to write, whether it takes committing to a longer piece or just doing a few prompts a week, pick a time slot and a set of days.  Writing often doesn‟t mean you have to write every single day with the drive of a bull. If you have time to devote every day, then sure.  If you can only commit a couple hours a week, as long as your making time to write, your are making progress as a writer.
  16. 16. The Benefits of Writing Often Just like an instrument, or anything else – your writing  will get better as you apply time, if the time applied is worthwhile. Make the time you spend on writing worthwhile by  challenging yourself. Try writing about things you haven‟t before, or working on something your not as good at till you finally hit the flow.  Keep a novel you know to be well written to make references as to how something well written should look. If your writing a scene with lots of dialogue, because sometimes you falter with scenes as such, look at a speech heavy page and make mental notes as to how it sounds. Some of my lessons sound vague when I say „just note how it‟s  written‟ – however if you actually do this, and pay close attention to how something is well written, it is easier to imitate it.  You aren‟t referencing a page to copy what it says, your referencing to see how something well written is.
  17. 17. Reading Often All good writers double as avid readers.  As a student you will always be asked throughout regular  education to read at home, and to read at school. If your schedule consists mostly of reading a particular book for a class, be sure to also have „your‟ book. It‟s easier to be entertained and take note of a book your interested in rather than school assigned books.  As an adult, your on your own to make time to read as no one is asking you to anymore. Find time before bed, while your taking a bath, or for those who can stomach it, early mornings before work.  If your not especially keen on picking books for yourself, find a reading list for your age. Usually book lists just echo book titles you‟ve been told to read a million times, but their a good reminder of those books and genre-specific book lists are
  18. 18. The Benefits of Reading As stated in the Vocabulary section of this unit, reading  naturally increases your vocabulary as you glean words from context. In case you skipped that page, although learning words from  context is convenient, if you think your definition may be skewed or it‟s very vague in your mind, make a note to look up certain words. Observing good writing habits.  As I‟ve said before, published authors clearly had something  going right with their writing! Reading helps you recognize good writing, and thus enables you to evaluate your own more effectively.  Good writers can assess a novel for its strengths and weaknesses, if you can master this skill, not only will your
  19. 19. The Harsh Art of Critique Accepting critique and applying it to your writing Is by far  the most efficient way to make leaps and bounds in your writing. Do your best to find someone you know wouldn‟t sugar coat  their opinions on how well written something is.  Try to find one person who reads casually, and one person you know specifically has the knowledge to properly critique. Their opinions will differ between a critic, and what a regular reader would perceive. Don‟t make excuses for yourself.  “Well I wrote it in just five minutes, so this isn‟t my usual” is  not an acceptable excuse.  “Well it was really late!” is not an excuse for poor writing either.  Take critique in stride, remember it, and rewrite with
  20. 20. Everyone is a Critic There are a few simple keys to taking critique well.  Remember that while your story may be very personal to  you, it is still just words and when someone says something is poorly worded, it is not a personal attack on you, or your writing. It‟s them trying to help you.  Ask yourself before you write something… Am I prepared to have this critiqued?   Do I want this to be critiqued?  Am I putting enough effort into this piece for it to be worth a rewrite later? Not everything you write needs to be read by everyone you  know, let some writing be personal, and some be public.  Always remember that when you post writing on the internet for critique, anyone and everyone can and will critique. If you
  21. 21. Like a river Good writers understand what it is like to read over a  sentence, and feel how it flows. Spot where sentences become awkward or blocky, and rectify the problem. “Maria and John played in the schoolyard then they went  back to school and then at the end of the day they came home.” „and then‟ will always, or almost always destroy the flow of a  sentence. It‟s like starting from the beginning of a new sentence each time, but….well, you aren‟t! “Maria and John played in the schoolyard, the landscape  melting into oranges for a long October. As the bell rang, they raced to be the first back to class. After another long day of school ended, a tired John and Maria walked home. While these sentences aren‟t especially interesting or thought  provoking, they give the a good example of the vastly noticeable