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Everything You Need to Know to Become a Writer

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Introduction

Welcome to my Writing Course! Have you ever tried writing a story, but found you may not be as good as the person who may have inspired you in the first place? Well, this is the place for you if you're up to developing your skill and getting to that book-selling place every writer dreams of! This is going to be updated weekly with writing tips, skills, work, and lists of elements that can help in your future writing. First, we'll start with the basics, of course, and then from there, we'll get down that rabbit hole of how to write your own work. Let it be known that the tips, skills, and lists are not all owned by me. I've been taking bits and pieces and constructing pages for you precious writers out there to help you out! So if you're a beginner, or just want to get more in-depth with some skills, this is the place for you, and I'm here to help you on your journey! Feel free to send me a piece of your writing at any time, and I'll be sure to check it out and give you feedback!

Writing and Speech

Writing is different from talking. When you talk, you make sounds, whereas when you write you make marks on a paper. There are other differences as well that affect the words you use and the way you organize them into sentences.

When you talk, your tone of voice carries much of your meaning. When you write, question marks and exclamation points tell something about your tone of voice, but most tones of voice cannot be reflected in writing. The facial expressions and gestures you use cannot be shown in writing either. Writing must be clear from words alone. When you talk, you also know right away whether you are being understood. If your listener is not following you, he may look puzzled, or ask a question. But when you write, you usually have only one opportunity to express your meaning.

Writing, however, does have one important advantage: you can go over your writing to make sure that you have it right. You can check to see that your words accurately express the meanings that you intend, that your sentences clearly state your ideas, and that the relationship of one idea to another is logical. Thus you can make your message as clear and precise as possible, and reduce the chance of being misunderstood.

Spoken language and written language are somewhat different. Spoken language can appropriately use words and grammar that are informal and familiar. Written language, on the other hand, is generally more formal, encouraging the use of words and grammar that are precise and unlikely to be misunderstood. This written variety of English is called standard edited English. It is the language of books, magazines, and newspapers; of business writing; and of schools. The pages that follow will help you improve your control of standard edited English.

Elements of a Simple Sentence

The basic unit of language is the sentence. Sentences may be long or short, simple or complex. But every sentence, no matter how complex, can be thought of a number of simple sentences. Every simple sentence, in turn, is made up of a few basic kinds of words. The commonly used classification divides all words into eight form classes, or parts of speech.

Classes of Words

Noun: A noun is a naming word.

It Names...

Persons: mother, carpenter, Lydia

Places: city, mountain, France

Plants and Animals: tree, lobster, Fido

Objects: rock, book, building

Substances: air, milk, soil

Ideas: honesty, freedom, motherhood

Other things or qualities

Verb: A verb is an action word or a word that shows states of being or possession, telling what a noun does or helping to tell what or how it it.

Action: run, fly, rest, think, give, become

Being, Possession: forms of be (am, is, are, was, were, etc.) forms of have (has, had)

Adjective: An adjective modifies (changes or adds to) the meaning of a noun: large, nasty, beautiful, purple, glorious

Adverb: An adverb modifies a verb, telling

When: now, soon

Where: here, inside

How: quickly, happily

A special group of adverbs modifies adjectives or other adverbs and tells how much or to what extent: very, somewhat

Pronoun: A pronoun can take the place of a noun and its modifiers: it, she him, yourself, somebody

Preposition: A preposition shows the relationship of a noun or pronoun that follows it (called its "object") to some other part of the sentence: of, with, by, at, to

Conjunction: A conjunction joins words or sentence parts to each other: and, or, but, because, while

Interjection: An interjection usually expresses attitude or feeling and is unrelated to other parts of a sentence: oh, well, wow, ouch

DIDLS

Just as each of us has a particular, unique way of presenting ourselves, writers have unique ways of presenting themselves. Our personalities shine through the way we talk, the words we choose, the gestures we use, the clothes we wear. A writer has only language to express his/her personality.

DIDLS stands for Diction, Imagery, Details, Language, and Syntax. They are basic elements of a writer's style. By analyzing and interpreting them together, it helps the reader to figure out the atmosphere, tone, and theme of a work.

Diction guides the meaning an author wants the reader to take away from the text. It is the author’s word choice, and it includes connotation (the suggested meaning of a word) and denotation (the literal meaning of the word).

When interpreting diction, some questions you should ask yourself are:

Why did the author choose that word over that word?

How does the author’s word choice affect my understanding?

What was the author’s motive in choosing this specific word or phrase?

What is the relationship of word choice to the author’s purpose and the effectiveness of the piece?

Examples:

"Hello, young man. It is a true pleasure to make your acquaintance. How are you feeling today?"

VS

"Hey, kid. Nice to meet ya. What's up?"

The first one is considered formal, while the other is informal. It is a way the speaker is speaking or how the writer chooses to write certain words. Slang and formality go into it as you can see from the examples.

Imagery is an appeal to the five senses (sight, smell, sound, taste, touch). Images help convey the author’s attitude and tone.

When interpreting imagery, some questions you should ask yourself are:

What imagery does the author use, and to what senses do these appeal?

What does he/she focus on in a sensory way? Is there one more than the others?

How do the kinds of images the author puts in or leaves out reflect his/her style?

Are the images vibrant? Prominent? Plain? o Why did the author choose this particular image?

What sound devices (i.e., alliteration, assonance, consonance, repetition) does the author use, and what effect do these have on meaning?

How does this image affect this piece of literature?

Examples:

It was a rimy morning, and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window… Now, I saw the damp lying on the bare hedges and spare grass… On every rail and gate, wet lay clammy; and the marsh-mist was so thick, that the wooden finger on the post directing people to our village-a direction which they never accepted, for they never came there-was invisible to me until I was quite close under it. -Charles Dickens

Great Uncle Algie came round for dinner, and he was hanging me out of an upstairs window by my ankles when my Great Auntie Enid offered him a meringue and he accidentally let go. But I bounced -- all the way down to the garden and into the road. They were all really pleased, Gran was crying, she was so happy. -JK Rowling

It's basically what kind of details you decide to use when writing.


Details are facts that help color an otherwise drab “picture” for the reader. Details give life to characters, settings, and situations. It is through details that the reader is able to form precise mental images.

When interpreting details, some questions you should ask yourself are:

What details does the author choose to include? What does the author choose to exclude?

What do they imply?

What are the connotations of his/her choice of details?

Example:

Upon entering the grocery store, I headed directly for the flower department, where I spotted yellow tulips. As I tenderly rested the tulips in my rusty shopping cart, I caught a whiff of minty dried eucalyptus, so I added the fragrant forest green bouquet of eucalyptus to my cart. While heading for the meat department, I smelled the stench of seafood, which made my appetite disappear.

Language is the entire body of words in a piece of text. This is not the same as diction, which involves merely isolated examples of words. The language used in a text helps shape it as a whole.

When interpreting language, some questions you should ask yourself are:

What is the overall impression of the language the author uses?

Does it reflect education? A particular profession?

Is it plain? Ornate? Simple? Clear? Figurative? Poetic?

Consider overall use of language. Is it...?

Colloquial (slang)

Old-fashioned Informal (conversational)

Formal (literary)

Connotative (suggestive meaning)

Denotative (exact meaning)

Concrete (specific)

Abstract (general or conceptual)

Euphonious (pleasant sounding)

Cacophonous (harsh sounding)

Monosyllabic (one syllable)

Polysyllabic (more than one syllable)

Syntax is the way sentences are structured and the way they are crafted.

When interpreting syntax, some questions you should ask your are:

What are the sentences like? Are the simple with one or two clauses? Do they have multiple phrases? Are they choppy? Flowing? Why are some sentences long? Why are some short?

Is there a variety of sentence structure (simple, compound, complex, compound-complex)?

Does the author use specialized sentence variety, such as inverted word order, parallel structure, balance, etc.?

How does the sentence structure affect the reader?

What emotional impression do they leave?

How does it affect the text?

What purpose does the structure of various sentences serve?

Punctuation is included in syntax:

Ellipses ("...") a trailing off, equally etc.; going off into a dreamlike state

Dash(-) interruption of a though; an interjection of a thought into another

Semicolon(;) parallel ideas; equal ideas; a piling up of detail

Colon(:) a list a definition or explanation; a result o Italics for emphasis

Capitalization(ABC) for emphasis

Exclamation(!) point for emphasis; for emotion

Examples:

People who text on their phone while watching a movie are very annoying. (Correct)

VS

While watching a movie, people who text on their phone are very annoying. (Incorrect)

Happy about her upcoming promotion, Sammie sang all the way home. (Correct)

VS

Happy about her upcoming promotion, the trip home was full of singing. (Incorrect)

Understanding VS Learning

"Remember when you learnt to swim, or cycle, or drive? You might have had a book to help you, but you wouldn’t really have learnt until you practiced these things for yourself.

It’s only when we try something for ourselves that we can see what advice really works and what needs to be discarded. We can learn a lot from books and other sources, but we only really internalize the advice if we understand it, believe it, and then put it into practice.

Creative writing is a practical skill. The best insights we can have to assist us to get better at this skill are the ones that make sense to us when we hear them; it’s the insights that we can internalize and apply that truly help us, not the ones we just learn as an abstract concept.

Internalizing what we have learnt is a fundamental principle of improving in a practical task, and this principle applies to any art form: dance, acting, painting, or playing an instrument. We’re not trying to remember a whole set of principles as we practice our art; we are trying to ‘build in’ the insights that will help us get better at what we do.

The best way to internalize any learning is to see examples of the lesson, so that our understanding can be enhanced, and then to practice using that learning. Therefore, this handbook is liberally sprinkled with comments and examples, to help you capture the knowledge.

What the book can’t do is practice for you. Here, each of us must do the hard work for ourselves. Others can advise us, no one can do it for us. My hope is that clearly presented insights and supporting examples will encourage you to apply and practice what you learn. This leads us to the second piece of key advice – to practice the craft by reading, writing, and enjoying what we do."

- Andrew J. Chamberlain

© 2021 Lyra Green

Comments

Patty Florence from Illinois on March 04, 2021:

Really enjoyed reading your article. I am presently writing, but I want that writing well way. I think I can incorporate some of the advice given. Thanks!

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