The Word for Writers
DEVELOPING YOUR WRITING SKILL
by Michael McBuba
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The art of proficient and skilful writing hardly ever comes to me as easily and as naturally as music composition. I still cannot quite figure out why or how, except to humbly admit that almost always, the drive, (or if you prefer, the urge, push, will, motivation or even passion), may not just be there or readily available all the time.
Unlike musical compositions which sometimes come to me quite naturally, effortlessly and hassle-free, (that is, once I have the materials to start with and once I have set my heart to the task), prose and/or poetic writings, (especially of the didactic or exegetical type in general), seem to demand more of my greater motivation, more coordination, more careful detailing, and more concerted and concentrated attention, diligent effort and unwavering determination, which must be exerted in order to observe certain basic, salient and irreducible, as well as hardly-indispensable techniques, finesse, craftsmanship, and minimum requirements.
However, like every other fine or applied art, writing can come quite easily and naturally to any one of us for as long as we have a receptive mind, and are able to register a certain degree of vested interest, heart-involvement, deliberate concentration, careful attention to critical details, observation of certain points of grammar, as well as the cultivation of certain skills necessary for the development and perfection of the writing craft.
From my private research and personal development, I am providing below brief notes on some of the essential qualities that make the great differences between good and bad writers:
Before you commence any writing assignment, first pause and ask yourself some or all of the following questions, "Why this write-up? What is my motive for writing it? What do I hope to accomplish by means of this write-up? Who will derive benefit (if any) from this write-up?"
While the foregoing may not be necessarily exhaustive, they form some of the pertinent and relevant questions that should undergird your motive for any writing assignment; and when rightly answered, they will provide you with the strong motivation that would propel you forward in the writing assignment.
Efficient and effective writers are those who tackle any writing assignment with a sense of strong and noble motivation. Therefore, your guiding maxim as a writer should be, "When the motive is right, the motivation will be strong."
Approach every writing assignment with objectivity in mind. Objectivity looks at issues with a dispassionate attitude, and tackles the current state of things rather than the imaginary perception or utopian ideology of a desirable status or state of being. Never yield to the temptation to convey only the popularly accepted views already expressed by others, but always endeavour to pass across the viewpoints which are objectively proper.
The lack of adequate objectivity has always been the death-knell of many a good write-up. Hence, to the extent that your writing is objective is the extent to which it should be devoid of being subjective or centrally located around your own personal colouration alone. It should rather be always given a globally balanced outlook which attracts instant appeal.
Purpose is the idea or ideal kept in mind as an end of every effort or action. It is also the stated intention, aim borne in mind, and chief design of your heart.
A clearly articulated statement of purpose should be clearly indicated at the onset of your writing assignment. It should be very apparent to the reader almost from the very first paragraph. This is what will determine whether your prospective reader would read all the way to the end or just give your write up a mere cursory glance.
Busy readers are always looking for lucid, un-clustered, and straight-forward materials that are not only objectively balanced, but also value-adding in themselves, and so would rarely waste precious time going through uninteresting, dull or boring materials of no direct consequence to their status.
Recently, I thoughtlessly and carelessly published on this site a very sensitive material, which was actually intended, and only meant for local consumption in my country of origin. No sooner was that material uploaded than it drew several scathing angst and umbrage from some of my readers who obviously misunderstood and misjudged my intentions for that particular write-up.
Not only did that unfortunate incident spur me to immediately retract and delete the said 'offensive' material, but it also inspired me to write a strongly-worded apology note, which I quickly circulated among those of my particular readers who responded to, or commented on the material.
That goofing experience served to strongly underscore for me the need to be very sensitive and mindful of my selected and/or targeted audience whenever writing any material for public consumption.
Every writer must therefore, as a matter of important priority take their target audience into consideration before, during and after any write-up. In order to attract wider readership, it is generally recommended that the target audience should always be a mixture of the young and old, as well as the literate and not-so-literate readers.
To achieve this objective, it is further recommended by most experts in the writing profession that every write up intended for a mixed audience should be concise, simple and well-structured. It should also be free of complex and compound expressions or sentences; free of unfamiliar diction or grammar; free of hackneyed local parlance, maxims, anecdotes, jargons or slang, and it should be naturally free of racially-motivated inferences, and any derogatory or defamatory terminology.
This connotes a distinctive pattern by which a writer may be easily identifiable. Most accomplished authors and writers who enjoy very wide readership are easily identified by their style of writing.
It follows therefore, that if you desire to rise in the profession of writing, you should also spend time polishing yourself, editing yourself, and cultivating every helpful quality you can pick up from the authors and writers that you very much admire. This is because, for any author or writer that you love to read, there are certain inalienable qualities that make them stand out - qualities that you instinctively want to imitate and incorporate into your own writing style.
Your writing style should be a unique signature or identification trade mark by which your readers can recognise you easily, even in situations where your works might have been excerpted or plagiarized without your authorization, awareness or consent.
Of course, styles need not be too stereotyped, rigid nor always predictable. My writing style for a web content material such as this would certainly vary were I to be preparing to integrate or incorporate it into a major book format.
Another important factor to take note of when handling any writing assignment is the medium for which you are writing. Written works fall into several categories and classifications, which is clearly outside of the scope of this particular write-up.
Suffice it to say that when you are aware of what media for which your material is intended, it would guide you to structure the write-up in such a way that it can be suitable for use.
For example, this present material was strictly put together for web publication, and its target is a mixed audience. This therefore, presupposes that there are those who may be interested in the material for the fresh insight and rich knowledge it provides, and there will also be those who may wish to incorporate it for their future use or adaptation. Mindful of the foregoing, the presentation has been deliberately made in a very simple and easy to use format, which is very suitable for webcast.
Finally, every writing assignment should be set off with a sense of direction. You should know in advance which direction the writing should focus in order to determine how to wrap it up very neatly and beautifully.
You must bear in mind that in every writing assignment, there are three core components: The Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion. With these components in mind, your writing should be organized in such a way that one paragraph systematically leads and links up with the others.
Everything I have written thus far is all intended to bring me to this point - that is, the need to give your writing a firm sense of direction, because the ending of every write-up must be as refreshingly memorable as the introduction must also be invitingly captivating.
Most readers may not mind too much if the main body of a material is poorly structured, awkwardly constructed or badly written; but they do certainly mind how you commenced the introductory remarks, as well as how you summarized towards the concluding part. The implication therefore, is that whatever you do, you must ever ensure that you start out well and also end very well.
In the absence of the foregoing key components, it would be certainly practically impossible to develop proficiency in any given vocation or career, let alone in the writing profession.
Definitely, I know that I have by no means 'arrived'(as it were), in the writing profession; but I am definitely no longer where I started out from! That is what essentially matters. We continue to get better with each write-up, and we continue to work on ourselves until we ultimately become Living Epistles written on the tablets of the hearts of all our Beloved Readers. That is the main goal and chief aim of all godly writers and authors!
- Tuesday, January 15, 2008.
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