Faye Arcand, My Twisted Writer Brain…

Five Critical Things You Need to be a Good Writer

When I was a kid in the dark ages they taught something called “phonics”. This is a system of sounding out words to read instead of learning or memorizing the words. Kids are taught to correlate certain sounds with letters. 

Apparently it’s no longer common in schools and is now seen as a terrible way to teach reading and writing. 

All I know is I learned to read but I loathe grammar and am a terrible speller. Now is that because of the way I was taught or because that’s the way my brain is put together. It just dawned on me that it may be because I’m not a very good rule follower! Hmmm…

I know my basic nouns, verbs, and adverbs…maybe even adjectives and a preposition or two. Don’t ask me about their affect on each other though and lord knows I won’t know participles, what’s dangling, and yikes on naming tenses. 

For the most part I write instinctually and it’s reflective of the way I talk. 

Writing a story, or reading it for that matter, should not feel like torture. Here are five simple things to ensure your writing feels natural. 

  1. Find your voice. Believe me, this is easier said than done and for many can take years. Your writer’s “voice” is a style that comes through your writing. It’s you on the page. It reflects not only your personality but also all your personal history, memories, biases, etc. Who are you as a writer? Are you looking to inform or entertain? What tone are you using in your writing? Comedic? Serious? Ironic? That tone comes through your words. Don’t try and sound like another author even if it’s one you admire. You need your own style and swagger. Read a lot of different things and see what resonates. It will take time for you to find you writer’s voice.
  2. Know the difference between Passive and Active Voice. Most of your writing should be active. This will make your writing not only stronger but more enjoyable and not so wordy. Watch for “was and a verb ending in ing.” “was going“(change to active: went), “was running” (change to active: ran). Same goes for “were and verb-ing”. Avoid things like we were singing (active: we sang). Check out My Twisted Writer Brain for further explanations. http://fayearcand.com/2020/06/09/my-twisted-writer-brain-passive-voice-will-kill-your-chance-at-success/
  3. Watch your spelling. Oh, my goodness–every time I type “from” it ends up coming out as “form”–we all seem to have one or two words that we constantly spell wrong. Then there are also blatant spelling errors that you need to watch for like: Things like affect vs. effect or doe and dough. Don’t necessarily rely on spell check as the word may be spelled correctly but you’re using the wrong one.These are easy errors but change the meaning of the sentence or paragraph. It’s also sloppy and a good editing software could assist you in catching these things. Make sure you check before publication but if you end up missing one or two–claim them as typos…lol and learn for next time. 
  4. Are you showing or telling? If you’re using a bunch of adverbs (many of which end in ly) then I’d bet you’re telling and not showing. Learn the difference between describing/telling (he walked angrily) and ‘showing’ or relating a connection to the scene (he balled up his fists and stomped across the room). It’s good to learn the difference and try to keep your writing in balance as there are times when you do need to tell. See my post on learning to show don’t tell: http://fayearcand.com/2020/06/02/my-twisted-writer-brain-show-dont-tell/
  5. If I’m reading a book and have to go searching for the meaning of a word I may end up ditching the book. Just saying—unless you’re some artsy fartsy literary poet get rid of the fancy shmancy words. They’re distracting and shows you’re trying too hard. If you can weave a word into a sentence where the context makes it clear what it means—cool but otherwise just use ordinary everyday language and vocabulary.  I guess one exception would be if this is your common way of speaking and the voice you choose to write in–all I’ll say is I won’t be reading it.

The act of writing offers an outlet of creativity that is as unique as you are. Embrace it, be yourself, and if you can relax to allow your inner self to make it onto the page then you’re more than half way there.

2 thoughts on “Five Critical Things You Need to be a Good Writer”

  1. I write instinctually too, and have never really appreciated technical talk like ‘Oh you missed a conjunction here’ or ‘This should be past participle and not past continuous why are you writing you shouldn’t write for a living’.

    I just go by feel, and while it probably isn’t the best way to go about it, I think sometimes you just have to trust your ears more than your eyes. Nice work as usual, Faye!

    1. Stuart! Thanks so much. My brain immediately stops at phrases like conjunctions and dangling participles….Having that instinct and ‘feel’ for the writing (I know you know what I mean) I think is what they call intrinsic knowledge aka (dare I say?) talent. And I don’t mean that in an arrogant way but just as reality. I believe one of the best ways to figure out your sentence structure is to read it aloud….Like you said….trust your ears. Thanks for dropping by Stuart.

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