Secrets to Writing Well
· Write It
There is a very old but simple maxim, that says: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The pen records history, and can even change or shape our knowledge of it. By it we declare war and by it we agree to peace. No law comes into being or takes effect without it, and by the pen, men are both imprisoned and set free. The pen moves us to every emotion, and compels us to take action or convinces us to stand still. At the foundation of every great idea, every great work, and every great expression of who we are, or what we seek to accomplish, is the pen. It is for this purpose that BooksByChildren exists; to help you excel in written communication, because if you master the pen, you will do masterfully well.
Start With What You Know
Effective writing, like every skill, is learned. Begin with something easy and progress to more difficult tasks. Since we know ourselves better than any other subject, most find it easiest to first write about themselves, who they are, some great event in their lives, or what they hold most dear.
Whatever your topic, the more you know about it, the easier it will be to share your thoughts with others. If at all possible, before you write, know, touch, feel, or see the subject of your work. If you can’t see, touch, or feel it, talk with someone who has, or read as much about it as you can. Local and school libraries are excellent sources of information on almost every topic. A very good Internet source is World Book Encyclopedia [click to link], but they charge a monthly fee for full access to their materials.
Begin with a short sketch or outline. List the points or ideas you want to share, leaving an extra line or two between each, so as to be able to add notes of more subtle points that may occur to you has you develop your work.
Once you have listed the main points, organize them so as to convey your message in a logical progression, usually placing the lesser points at the beginning and the most significant or powerful at the end. If you have a computer, you can easily reorder them, otherwise just number them 1, 2, 3 and so on, in the order you think they should appear. If your message is a recount of a past event, listing points in chronological order [the order they actually occurred] is usually best.
Next, write a brief conclusion or closing paragraph of one to three sentences. You will develop it more fully in the first full draft.
Though the introduction comes first in your work, it is recommended that you write it last in preparing your outline. The introduction not only prepares the reader for what you are about to share, but it also leads the reader logically into your first point. Creating the introduction will be far easier, once you have decided what you want to say in the main body of your work, and the order in which you want to say it. For the purposes of the outline, try to limit the introduction to no more than two or three sentences.
Remember that the introduction should spark the readers’ curiosity and draw them into the main body of your message. If you are writing to an individual or some governing body in authority, you will be far more successful if your introduction includes some form of honest praise – find something they have done right and express appreciation for it.
Once you are satisfied with your outline, write your message in full. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or spelling at this point. Just let the words flow from your mind to your pen. If while you are writing, a new point pops into your mind that should be added to a part already written, make a note at the appropriate place in your outline, but keep going until you have finished the first draft.
Review, Correct, and Write It Again
To this point, you have focused on what you want to say. Now, before you start your first review, take a moment to think about your audience, those who will be reading your message. Then try to read your message as if you were looking at it from their point of view, and read completely through it. You may make spelling and other simple corrections as you go, but during the first reading, it is far more important to focus on the flow of your message. When you have finished, consider the following:
Does the introduction adequately introduce the subject to be discussed, and flow logically into your first point? If not, rework it.
Did it follow a logical order, with each section leading smoothly into the next? If not, rework it.
Was it easy to read? If what you wrote was intended to be informational, was it clear and easy to under stand? If it was intended to entertain, was it fun and enjoyable? If not, try shortening or breaking-up long sentences. Get rid of excess words or details that do not significantly add to the point you are trying to make. For example, if the point of your message is how wonderful the warmth of the sun on the beach at noon, mentioning the exact time of sunrise or sunset may be distracting or confusing. Another example can be found in the following, which was taken from an actual submission to our Library:
“When I look for a friend I look for some special things in them.”
This might be better written:
“I look for special things in a friend.”
The message is the same, but conveyed with fewer words.
Did you find your mind wandering, or did new ideas or questions pop into your mind at a particular place? If so, your reader will likely have the same experience and your message may be lost. Try to determine if any particular sentence caused this disconnect. If so, there may be several ways to solve the problem. You can reword that sentence to see if you can make it fit, or flow better with the ones before and after it. You can add a sentence immediately after the “problem one,” which addresses the question that came into your mind. If the question is complex, you may need to insert a whole new paragraph to answer it. Occasionally, this problem can be simply solved by reorganizing the existing paragraphs.
The conclusion can take many forms, depending on the subject you have written about and the purpose of your writing. In some instances, it may simply be a part of the last major point you seek to make. In others, it is where you summarize the key points previously made, and then ask the reader to make a decision. In every instance, the conclusion needs to flow logically out of that which came before it. The conclusion should be simple, powerful and memorable.
This process of review and rewriting may have to be repeated several times before you get a finished product that you can be proud of. However, before you give your work to the intended audience, ask a friend or family member to read it. Then go back and re-read your work yourself, with their comments in mind, and make any changes you think necessary. After making any changes, read the whole work again, keeping the original goals in mind.
In summary, seek to paint a picture with your words. Make each point flow to the next, logically and simply. Use words that your readers will understand, and not ones that send them racing for the dictionary. But most importantly, Have Fun!