On writing

I’m in the midst of rethinking an academic writing class to include more fun and motivating tasks. It’s a one-week course, and I want to have them do all of their writing, reading and peer feedback in class, with no additional work at home. That means a lot of clicketty click in the computer lab, interspersed with some pen-and-paper work and plenty of group activities. Ideally, at the end the students should not be “all written out,” they should want to go and write volumes. So: “What advice do you give to young people who want to be authors?”

“We all start out with the same alphabet. We are all unique. Talent is not the most important thing — discipline and dedication are. Craft can be learned but desire and longing are innate. Despite the demands of school and just being young, try to write SOMETHING every day — a description, a captured emotion, a simile, a metaphor. Read, for crying out loud! A writer must read the way a ball player must go to the ballfield every day to practice. Everything is possible in this world of ours — and so’s publication.”

Robert Cormier, through http://twitter.com/jerridkruse and http://twitter.com/kdwashburn

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Ten great quotes on writing to get a discussion going:

  • Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The best style is the style you don’t notice. ~Somerset Maugham
  • I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard
  • I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in everybody’s head. ~John Updike
  • The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie
  • Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. ~Francis Bacon
  • The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say. ~Mark Twain
  • Writing comes more easily if you have something to say. ~Sholem Asch
  • Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it. ~Hannah Arendt
  • To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music the words make. ~Truman Capote

Language work: 13 golden nuggets from William Safire’s “Great Rules of Writing” (full printable version here):

  • Remember to never split an infinitive.
  • The passive voice should never be used.
  • Do not put statements in the negative form.
  • Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
  • A writer must not shift your point of view.
  • And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
  • If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  • Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
  • Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
  • Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
  • Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
  • Always pick on the correct idiom.
  • Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

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Anne

Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

2 thoughts on “On writing”

  1. Very good. Agree. Might need to do some editing afterwards, but without the flame it won’t light anyone’s fire.

    What a brilliant blog name, btw! Will be reading!

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