Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Writing is Easier than Public Speaking

A few of my friends on Social Media got in touch with me recently. They needed my advice and assistance in learning writing. It is much easier to write well than to be a good teacher of writing, I realised. In order to create a basic template that might help others too, I decided to write a post on it.

If you are petrified of public speaking, writing is much easier. I believe that unlike painting or music, which might not be everyone's cup of tea, almost anyone can be a good writer. There are of course those highly gifted among us to whom this skill is innate. For everybody else, it is all about practice~ write, write and keep writing.

1) Journaling ~
Before you have the confidence to share your writing with others, you could write for yourself. Maintaining a daily journal helps bring clarity of thought. Your journey as a writer begins with understanding yourself. This is very important if your writing is non-technical content. It also inculcates the discipline of writing regularly and gradually you begin to get the feel of it.

2) Reading ~
When I set out to be a writer as a blogger in 2012, besides my mentors who gave me timely tips, reading well written posts became my best teacher. I became a voracious consumer of tips on importance of the headline, visuals, keywords and length of paragraphs in a post. This inspired me to raise my own standards, and I tried to their match their felicity in communicating.

3) Well etched out characters ~
If you recall the movies which are your all time favourites, besides being well written and directed, they all have strong characters. Characters so strong that they have stayed with you decades later.  From literature, can you easily forget Howard Roarke (The Fountainhead) or Michael Corleone (The Godfather)? A writer has to be alert and observant. Notice how people from various walks of life converse and emote to pick up mini stories from them.

4) Emotions ~
Stories are about emotions otherwise they would be bland and insipid. The emotions can be nuanced or piercing as the turn of events in a story demands. Emotions build empathy with your reader.

5) Audience ~
Who is your audience? Are they teenagers or a mature audience? What are their expectations from you? As a film maker once said, 'Making Art house cinema which runs to empty houses is self indulgence. I make movies for real audiences.' A well defined audience brings alignment between your writing and their tastes.

6) Purpose ~
Why am I writing this? Is it just to enjoy myself (which is perfectly okay on a Blog) or is it with a clearer aim that I have not defined? Is it a social message that needs to be conveyed with authority? If it is meant to stir an audience to action, you would do well by incorporating a 'call to action' hook at the end of the article or story.

7) Genre ~
You might be versatile, however, by and large writers develop their predominant style and are known for a genre. So you might be adept at humour, satire, light romance, erotica, mysteries or non-fiction writing. You don't need to be reminded about who became a legend as 'the Queen of mystery novels'. Maybe she could have picked up some other genre with equal ease. She stuck to that which had become her unquestionable brand. This applies to almost all forms of writing.

8) Voice ~
Watch two good actors playing similar roles, each one leaves his own stamp on it. Besides each one's acting style and mannerism, it is inner creative expression that's making a mark on us. A good writer similarly develops his own voice. The subconscious mind is a treasure trove of wisdom! Meditation and introspection brought my inner voice to the fore.

9) Simplicity ~
The other day I was reading a story by an Indian writer who seemed to have an excellent command over English. Initially, I was thoroughly impressed by her vocabulary. One paragraph into her otherwise fascinating story, I lost interest and quit reading it. The complexity of the words used marred the flow of narrative. My favourite Authors of all time have used lucid, easily understandable language that lends to the flow. Also, very long winded sentences can be chopped into a few shorter ones.

10) Detailing ~

Genres, stories and situations define the amount of detailing required. Accordingly you etch out the character, establish the settings and so on. A great writer makes you smell, feel, listen to and visualise the scenes of his story as if they were playing out right in front of you.

11) Compelling narrative
We live in an era when mini stories are narrated in 140 characters! The advent of the internet and social media has made the average reader impatient. Meandering aimlessly in the narrative is a sure way to lose the reader's interest. Whether it is with twists and turns or with interesting happenings in the story, the reader must be kept engaged all through. Is the writing full of energy? Use of 'power words' lends conviction and authority to your writing when justified.

12) Ebbs and highs ~

Master writers create nuanced change in pace and mood of the story. Creating an appropriate build up before hurling the reader into frenzied action. Nothing is as off putting as monotony of pace.

13) Length ~
According to the format you are writing for, the length of your write up has to measure up to match that. A blog post typically is 300 to 500 words in length (although if the subject demands so you can write much longer posts. A post I wrote yesterday was 1178 words long). I decided to keep my book length to under 250 pages.

14) Editing ~

The initial draft is all about getting your thoughts out on paper (or onto your computer). The grammar and composition does not really matter at that stage. Most writers begin with drafts and then land up with finished articles after a series of corrections, chopping and changing. I, for instance, kick myself when I locate typos or a word out of place in my published post. It signifies that I do not care for my readers enough.

The list goes on and on but I have shared what I felt was most relevant. Hope this post has whetted your appetite enough to go on a writing spree!

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