Anybody can write – that’s what they imply on the freelancing websites when a bloke offers $2.50 for 500 words. But what those chancers will soon realize is that not everybody can write well.
Have are five tips for keeping your prose sharp.
In the words of Mark Twain, ‘A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.’ Choose prose that challenges you and prose which is regarded as badly written. There’s a difference between a good storyteller and a good writer, and you need to know why Fitzgerald trumps Stephanie Mayer, prose if not success-wise.
Show don’t tell
This is one of the first techniques creative writing students learn. As Anton Chekhov said, ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’ Even professional writers don’t always instinctively do this. The joy of redrafting is being able to chip away at your work over time.
Feel free to write adverbs galore during your initial ‘’vomit draft’’, but the majority will be redundant. A novice writer may think they’re giving readers the scenic route, but reading extensively over time will show how ostentatious words can alienate readers. Consider The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas; despite a sophisticated plot which forces readers to question their moral integrity, the writing itself is accessible all abilities.
Leave your work for some time
You’d be surprised how flawed your work can seem after time away from each other. A few weeks’ space – allowing for the initial preciousness you feel towards an exciting new piece to pass – will allow you to look at it objectively.
Edit, edit, edit
Give your work to anyone willing to read it. Read it out loud to yourself, repeatedly; this will help you notice if a line isn’t flowing well and needs punctuation, or you’re repeating words. Don’t be precious. If multiple readers give the same feedback, take it on board. Ask specific questions: could you enter the story later and leave sooner? Is this the most interesting POV? Don’t be afraid to tear apart and reassemble your work.
Remember that not all prose needs to be sharp; some can be soft; we use the adverb “fluently” to describe somebody who speaks well, so why wouldn’t the same apply to writing? And last of all: believe in what you write – all rules are made to be broken.
Lowri is a freelance writer and burlesque performer based on the Isle of Anglesey. Although sometimes she gets to write about exciting topics like designer children’s wear (FORTY QUID FOR A HAT?!), more often than not it’s DIY – not to brag, but she has become quite the expert on Combi boilers and laminate flooring.
You can follow Lowri on her personal blog here.