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Writing

The representation of language in a textual medium through the use of writing symbols.

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A Look at the Art and Craft of Writing

  • Apr 9, 2010
Rating:
+5
As a teenager I was fascinated by the art and craft of writing.  Of course, in high school, it seems like everyone wants to be a writer of some kind, thinking that some of their favorite writers and authors (which in high school amounts to approximately: "I read half of this book!") simply put it out there with ease.  I recall many of my friends saying that writing was going to be an easy way out and that it was easy money.  I always laughed at the prospect.  If writing were easy money, everyone would do it.  The reason such writers as J.K. Rowling, Dean Koontz, John Grisham etc. are able to make such large sums of money writing is because their books sell an unusual amount.  They sell hundreds of thousands of copies of their books--millions in fact.

I still write a great deal, mostly fiction.  I started writing when I was sixteen.  There was this place called fanfiction.net that I used to go to, which I really enjoyed.  Fanfiction is training wheels, however.  You've already got characters and (most times) a setting.  In terms of creative writing, Fanfiction isn't always that creative.  In fact if you got to fanfiction you're apt to find a lot of bad comedy fics that are written in a somewhat dialog fashion.  Sometimes you can find funny stuff, often times you can't.  Fanfiction is great for younger writers and readers.  For those who'd like to really let their creativity flow, there is Fictionpress.net, where you can find a lot of really good works by a lot of talented writers.  Success doesn't make one a good writer, but sometimes just getting out there is nice.  

There's more to writing than just fiction, of course.  We're all members of Lunch.com and we all write reviews (most of us do).  I've already discussed the art of reviewing so I won't go into it here.  Here I want to talk about writing.  The art and the craft of it in and of itself.  What I've learned through having my own writing criticized and by reading different writers.

This is going to be a very long piece that serves to be motivating and to be helpful to other writers.  As well as just to talk about the craft.  And while books on the art and craft of writing are typically short, essays or reviews take slightly more time.  I don't get 80 pages.  Just 80 thousand characters.  What follows is what I've learned about writing and perhaps what some of you writers may have learned as well.

I suppose we better get this out of the way first.  If you write, you better be reading too.  It's hard to be a good writer if you don't read.  While I was in high school I met a lot of people who always liked to tell me, "I love to write but I don't like to read."  This is fine and dandy, but when your idea is to get published you might want to.  It shouldn't be a chore to read if you're someone who likes to write.  The human imagination is awesome, but inspiration has to come from somewhere... so does learning the craft.  As far as I'm concerned you want people to be starting off with works that may not be considered "Great" anyway.  I hear how people are apalled at how Harry Potter and Twilight are so popular and that little children are reading them.  I happen to disagree.  If it gets them started on reading, and they continue to read more after, then perhaps Twilight is a good place to start.  It doesn't spoil their literary appetite.  If Twilight is their gateway into reading then that's a good thing.  They're apt to pick up other books further on down the line.  Reading shouldn't be a guilty pleasure and readers should never be embarrassed by what they read--good or bad. 

This isn't to defend such works as Twilight or anything like that mind you.  It is only to say that there's nothing wrong with using Twilight as a gateway to reading.  No one is picking up and enjoying Twilight because it's Shakespeare, ya know.  Think of it this way.  You've got to slowly be drawn into something.  You've all enjoyed things that in the past you look at now and think, "Eh, it wasn't that good," but you still enjoyed it.  If you're in my generation... you probably enjoyed watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, for example (if you're older you already hated that show).  And no, it's not a good show.  It's a horrible show, as a matter of fact.  But ask anyone in my generation and they watched it when they were a child... and they watch it now and say, "This used to be cool?  Seriously?"  Oh yes, tons thought it was.  You're embarassed now, but you weren't so embarrassed then.  And yes, when nostalgia comes into play some will say, "Well, I still enjoy it."  I'm one of those people myself.  It's horribleness is now the reason I love it, but I wouldn't try to fool anyone into thinking it's a good show.  

I can only talk about the process slightly.  If you're someone who writes... you've got something going for you.  First it's about getting an idea.  I'm tired of the whole, "It's been done before," stuff.  Whether it's been done before can't account for the execution of that idea.  Aside from that, there is always this battle over literature and popular fiction.  A battle I simply don't care for.  When I write, I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel.  I can't imagine why any writer would try to reinvent the wheel when it's about telling a story.  Publishers and literary snobs can be so pretentious about finding someone who is willing to do something new that they forget to sit back and enjoy a story.  Ideas in and of themselves are simple things.  They can be as ambitious or as simple as you like.  Many decry simplicity when writing... forgetting that simplicity has been something we've been striving for in fiction for centuries.  Which brings about the first thing I want to talk about... word use.

When writing, the golden rule of words is simple: Use the first word that comes to mind.  Writing classes and teachers can be condescending on those who don't want to do it that way.  For writers who have a thesaurus on hand, it's not going to help you in the long run.  People are always looking for the most complex words for the simplest things.  If you're intent on telling your story or you have something to say... you might want to make sure people can understand it.  Looking for the most complex word never helps.  Don't say insalubrious when you mean sick.  If the intent of the reader is to simply enjoy the story, he's rarely interested in seeing just how smart you are.  Wow, you can use insalubrious, but no one cares.  Stephenie Meyer has a big problem with it.  Throughout Twilight she uses over 100 different words to describe Edward as perfect or beautiful.  One of those words is seraphic.  It held up the story and just didn't help.  Let's be fair and say that behind the pages of a book, we simply don't know just how smart the author is, and to try and pretend that we do is absurd.  Some people have incredible vocabularies and some don't.  John Steinbeck never really used complex words.  His books were among the easiest to read and he's one of the most celebrated authors of all time.  The same goes for J.D. Salinger (although he was a big fan of labyrinthian sentences).  And these guys are considered literary geniuses.  Vocabulary is something every writer needs.  There's too much stock in having a large vocabulary, however.  Words that, for the most part, no one really cares about.  If you have to choose between the million dollar word and the five dollar word... the five dollar word wins.  Why pay so much more to get the same thing?  You're not forbidden to use more complex words, mind you.  It just means you shouldn't go searching for the more complex word to make yourself seem smarter than you actually are or because you're somehow ashamed of your vocabulary.  You shouldn't feel bad about your vocabulary in the slightest.  If you read a lot, your vocabulary will expand.  I'm only trying to get you to understand that in the grand scheme of writing the importance of intelligence is overstated and the importance of simplicity is understated.  The guy who must substitute insalubrious for sick comes off like the daughter wearing her mother's high heels, or the son wearing his father's tie.  Just because you can dress like a grown up doesn't mean you're a grown up.

Moving on from words (sort of) is the grammar issue that most people have with the writing.  I won't pretend my grammar is perfect.  I will say, however, that when it comes to spelling and grammar, it's really something that some people are incapable of.  You can be the greatest grammar teacher in the world, and you'll find that it doesn't sink in for everyone.  If you're interested in learning grammar, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White is one of the grammar books people seem to really like.  If that doesn't work, you've got the internet and there are millons of websites which will be able to give you help with grammar.  It's not a lot of fun but grammar isn't supposed to be fun.  People are always going on and on about how much grammar sucks and how they never understood grammar (and probably never will).  But when you finally read something from a friend that has bad grammar, you suddenly realize why it's important.

If there is anything about writing that I'm told by writers all the time, it is to use as few adverbs as you can muster within a sentence to express yourself.  This "rule" explains itself.  Adverbs are redundant.  They often explain things that are already clear.  Which is exactly why writers use them.  A writer uses adverbs to make sure he's expressing himself clearly.  I know what you're thinking, "Isn't understanding what you wanted in the first place?"  Yes.  It is.  Often times adverbs clarify what is already obvious to the reader,.  Adverbs are, for those who do not know, words used to modify other words.  Most of them end in -ly.  There are also phrases (like kind of or with apprehension, stuff like that).  Most times they're used for clarification, other times they're used to express the degree to which something happens within the prose. 

Here's an example, He drank the water viciously.  The word viciously adds something to the sentence, sure.  It makes it colorful in a way.  It even gives readers an idea of how desperate he may be to get some water into his system.  What you need to consider is what happens in the story before and after that sentence.  If the preceeding prose tells us what happened that made him so deprived of water in the first place then how he drank it doesn't matter.  The reader can assume just how he might've drank his water.  Adverbs do have their use.  Don't think they don't.  Sometimes you need them.  It's the overuse of adverbs that can kill a story.  Especially in dialog.  Take the following lines:

"Get out!" she yelled loudly.
"Don't worry about the water on the floor right now," he said dismissively.
"Come here kitten whiskers," he said sexily.
(ew...)

Most of them are fine sentences.  They're also redundant.  Yelled loudly is too repetitive here.  If people yell softly, I don't know it yet.  The second example, dimissively is an extra word.  It doesn't matter if it's there or not.  It doesn't change the sentence in anyway.  The last one is just ugly and horrible no matter how you slice it.  It's horrible because sexily is such an unattractive word! 

There's no rule book on writing, just ways in which you can make your writing look neater and presented better.  Anything you do in writing can be done too much.  I like to keep things simple instead of trying to overreach and be something I'm not with my writing.  Adverbs are just another way of keeping things simple.  Where as adverbs are used to make sure someone can be understood, the passive voice is used for the sake of sounding more authoritative and serious.  Some think the passive voice is better because there are some who argue the subject of a sentence has to come last instead of first.  The review was written by Woopak, for example.  Plain and direct is better for me--as is making sure you know the subject first.  Woopak wrote the review is just much better to write.  The active voice is better.  With the passive voice something is happening to the subject.  In active the subject is actually doing something.  The teacher taught the children is always better than The children were taught by the teacher.  There are some English scholars who suggest that putting the subject at the end is better, but I disagree.  Others seem to think they'll be taken more seriously.  Newspapers do it to put emphasis on the subject so that you know who to blame and who to feel sorry for.   Man killed by police certainly makes a different kind of impression on you than Police killed man.  For most people... it doesn't quite say the same thing.  The first one makes it seem as though the man deserved to be killed and must've done something to make him deserve it.  The second one makes it sound like the man didn't deserve to be killed and that the officer did it without cause.

Writing is something which I love a great deal, but there are more things beneath the surface that have to be considered.  I'll try not to go on for too much longer.  But I do want to talk about my two favorite things.  The first is imagination.  I enjoy that part.  But what I hate is when I might rob the reader of his or her imagination.  Description is another one of those things people expect more than what they need to get.  When I write fiction, I assume that whoever will read it will have some form of imagination.  Let's imagine, for a second that you've just checked into a hotel room.  The moment you step in there you see those two beds lined against the wall aren't made, it smells of farts and you can see a rat scurrying along the wall.  You decide you'll make the bed, and when you finally spread the comforter out you notice a bloodstain on the bed. 

This is all basic descriptions but bear with me for a moment.  There are quite a few things I've told you and others I haven't.  For example, I haven't told you what color the walls in the room are.  I didn't have to tell you it was a shitty hotel room, nor did I have to tell you that perhaps you've walked into an unsafe environment.  It's only scratching the surface of description, but I think you're getting the idea.  If rats are scurrying, the beds haven't been made and there's blood on the comforter, you can start to picture the room for yourself while painting other things into the picture.  There are certain things I clearly want you to see--the blood on the comforter, for example (and you might argue that a rat scurrying around would be out of the ordinary as well).  I haven't gone too far in, but by those lines it should be obvious you're in a pretty bad situation.  It's not quite that vivid and clear--yet.  But I hope that you're able to see things which I haven't pointed to yet.  Let's take that comforter.  I never told you what color it was.  Even if I had, some of you would've imagined a color other than what I've told you anyway.  If I'd told you the comforter was beige, some of you may have still seen a white one.  Or a green one.  Or even a red one.  The point is, writing isn't a one way street.  The reader has to be willing to receive and exercise his brain in more than being able to just know what the word... seraphic means.  Think of a coloring book.  The pictures are there, but it's up to you to bring them to life.

The last thing that I love to do is the rewriting process.  And this is why writing sucks the big one for many people.  There's not a writer alive who hasn't erased or rewritten SOMETHING.  Or who hasn't had to go back and possibly revise something.  Let me explain.  I have a lot of stuff I've written over the years.  I'm not sure if I'll be published, but in the event that I ever do, my writing should be polished in some way.  My first drafts are always written without a care in the world.  I'm not going to bother making sure it looks gramatically sound or anything like that.  The first draft is made for mistakes.  I'm much more concerned with getting the story on paper.  I don't do a lot of plotting.  I get an idea, maybe a character or two and start writing.  I often have an idea of where it's going.  I've got a destination mapped out but I can't be sure if I'll take the route I want, or if there will be detours along the way (and there WILL be detours).  Even writers who plan their stories out meticulously find themselves surprised at where it might go.  Robert Ludlum made an outline for his books, but found he never looked at it once he began writing it.  John Irving works backwards from the very last sentence all the way until he gets to the very first and he's STILL surprised by some of the things his characters do, even when he knows everything that'll happen in his book.  It's bound to happen.  Especially if your characters begin to feel real to you.  When you start telling people things like, "Tim sure as hell wouldn't like it if you gave him eggs for breakfast," even though 1.) Tim does not exist and 2.) You probably never wrote a scene where he sat down to breakfast in the first place, you're probably sucked into what you're writing.  

The first draft is what I use for free reign.  Get all the ideas on the page.  I don't like to start self editing as I go.  If I do that I usually end up saying things to myself lik, "Oh, man this is no good."  The hardest part about writing, I think, is to finish.  If you can finish your first draft you've already done more work than most people could even dream.  Which is why my intent with the first draft is just to get it done.  The real work is never getting that first draft written.  It's pretty easy to do that... so long as you keep writing.  Nora Roberts said in an interview that you can't fix a blank page.  So I keep writing until the story comes to a comfortable end.  Since I don't plot too much out, I can't tell how long a story is going to be.  It could be as short as 2,000 words (if the intent is a short story or flash fiction) or it can be as much as 150,000 words.  It's not up to me.  It's all up to when the story will end.  And yes, some parts are quite nice to put on paper. 

Of course, the downside to writing a first draft in this manner--especially on a computer--is that your own mistakes don't jump out at you quite as well.  Refusing to self edit has that impact.  Which is why once the first draft is actually done, I have to put it away.  Until I get sucked into something else.  Like the next project.  Or I go out and watch a movie.  Play a video game.  Things that ensure I pretty much forget about it.  It's important.  Because in the excitement of getting it done, I might say to myself, "Man, this is awesome!"  I don't want to be so swept up in excitement that I fool myself into thinking it's good.  It's not.  It's horrible.  Absolutely horrible.

And when I say it's horrible, I mean that it's riddled with errors and mistakes.  So after a month or so (however long it takes me to forget about it and get sucked into something else) I'll eventually revisit it and just read it.  With a small spiral notebook.  For notes.  When reading my draft I need to double check to make sure that my characters are in character and that I've covered all my bases in terms of the plot.  Since I don't plot out much there is bound to be a plot hole or two.  Maybe even a story arc with a character that doesn't go anywhere.  It's to make sure that the story is coherent.  It's fun stuff.  Since I put it away for a while it doesn't look like it's written by me, and that's what makes it easy.  It's always easier to find and critique someone else's work than it is to critique your own.  If I did this for every review on Lunch I'd probably produce far fewer reviews.  But to make my point clear, many of you could read this review and notice errors and typos I probably don't.  People read comments and point out others typos that the author of the comment couldn't point out himself.  On the internet you're pretty much free to make those mistakes.  In the event of reading a draft of a story people look at it differently.  If I make a typo and use Your when I mean You're you'll know what I mean regardless.  In a story people have higher expectations.

Once this is done it's time to read it again (by then it'll be the third or fourth time I've read it) and begin to plug in edits and honor the notes I've written.  Changing things up.  Fixing characters who may be acting out of character.  Rewriting certain passages and clauses.  And, the most important, getting rid of stuff.  Cutting scenes out and making sure the story gets told faster.  Many writers will get sucked into the idea that the longer your story, the better it is.  When it came to school work, writing something shorter is often harder than writing something longer.  People will panic over having to write a fifteen page paper... but imagine if that same teacher said it could be no more than five pages.  Making sure you don't go over that limit is sometimes harder.  The hardest paper I ever had to write in school was when my teacher said it could be no longer than eight pages.  It seems like a big window, but with a research paper... finding a lot of information and figuring out which infomration to give and which information not to.  Telling a story is like that.  What Tim eats for breakfast might have nothing to do with the story--even in terms of showing us who he is.  So I may be able to get rid of it.  Cutting whole scenes or even subplots is sometimes important to making sure the bigger picture is told.  The idea with this second draft is to make sure to--literally--cut the bullshit. 

Stephen King's rule was Second Draft=First Draft-10%.  To figure out the length of a draft is to figure out word count not pages.  It's actually important to express this point, because so many are concerned with how many pages a book has, when that doesn't necessarily tell you much about it's length.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, for example, is longer than The Lovely Bones.  But if you pick up two paperback editions of each book The Lovely Bones has more pages.  Don't get sucked into Page Count.  Especially if you're a writer who wants to be published.  Your publisher isn't going to be concerned with how many pages your manuscript is.  Most publishers will specifically ask for an approximate word count.  So using the Second Draft=First Draft-10% formula means that if you have a first draft that is 150,000 words, you should try to cut at least 15,000 words.  If the first draft is a 2,500 word story you should try and cut 250.  Admittedly, it's incredibly easy to cut more when the work is longer.  I once wrote a novella in which the first draft was 37,000 words (approximately).  I only set out to cut 3,700 words, but there was so much more worth cutting that I ended up cutting 5,000 instead... and this was even while having to make sure to put MORE words in to clarify or to complete sentences that might've been missing a word.  There will always be plenty to cut.  Either extra words in sentences or whole scenes that aren't important at all.

The second draft is easy.  It's just rewriting the first with all my edits in place.  After that I read it one more time and see if there's anything else.  And after THAT I will finally give it to a friend or two.  Usually those who I can trust, who will see if they can find something else they might want to point out.  There are a lot of writers who state that giving others the chance to present an opinion on your piece is a bad idea.  But that's not exactly what I'm doing at this point in my process.  My point in giving it to them is to see if there are any errors worth correcting.  And to see how they react.  Yes, it is likely I'll have to do a third draft.  Sometimes it's okay to hear friends talk about certain things.  If they tell me stupid things like, "I didn't like this character because he did this..." then I don't care.  If they tell me, "This seems out of character for Tim," it's worth looking at.  It's about having other eyes and gauging reactions.  I don't expect everyone to like it.  But if everyone is saying the same thing I might take a look.  That doesn't mean it will be changed.  If someone says, "I didn't like the killer for killing a puppy," I might think to myself:  That's not the guy you're supposed to like anyway.  I take all my criticisms with a grain of salt.

Which brings about my last little tidbit to talk about in my long look at the art and craft of writing.  Why did I do it?  Why did I write the story that I wanted to write in the first place?  The answer, "Because I felt like it," should be enough, but in a world packed full of literary snobs and people who think nothing is worth reading if it doesn't "mean" something... it seems like you have to be saying something.  And people will try to read into it.  Even seeing things that aren't there.  For years people have been baffled by what exactly J.D. Salinger was trying to say with The Catcher in the Rye.  He never told anyone.  But literary scholars went so far as even finding significance in Holden Caulfield's hat.  What if J.D. Salinger himself didn't see any significance in his hat at all?  It's true, it happens all the time.  An episode of South Park did this brilliantly when Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny write a novel called "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs" (it's South Park).  Thanks to Butters taking credit for it (because they were afraid they'd get in trouble...) the people think Butters is some genius who was writing about many different things, even though all The Tale was about was a bunch of raunchy humor.  Kyle and the gang takes their case to the Supreme Court where the people there end up arguing over who the book was trying to bash and what the book was trying to say, despite the cries of the actual writers sitting before them constantly saying, "It didn't mean anything!"  To which they are dismissed as being kids too young to understand.  When Butters writes his own book called "The Poop and the Pee" the denizens of South Park think he's writing about abortion when it's just a book about... poop and pee.  But so many are trying to read into it, including a psychopath who thinks the book is telling him to kill the Kardashians (obviously a reference to how a man claimed The Catcher in the Rye inspired him to kill John Lennon). 

Themes are great things in books.  Many writers experiment with themes and call certain things themes.  But a book that lacks themes or doesn't really talk about anything (ones made for the sake of entertainment) are often dismissed or panned.  I've always been surprised how so many so-called "intellecuals" can be so oblivous to being able to understand something so simple.  The idea that one should write for the sake of intellectual stimulation--and only intellectual stimulation--seems backwards.  Charles Dickens is often given credit now, but back in his day he was heavily criticized for not being "literary" enough, and criticized for being "popular."  So was William Shakespeare (and Shakespeare actually did write more so for the money).  Literary snobs who are baffled by the success of say... Harry Potter are looking at something different than what readers are.  No one actually picks up a Harry Potter book because it's... you know... smart.  And if you DO pick it up for that reason you've got bigger problems.  I wasn't critical of Twilight because of its lack of literary prowess.  That would be ridiculous.

So when I write, my idea isn't to achieve literary prowess.  And I'm certainly not writing for anyone's intellectual treat.  I just like stories, and to me that's what is important.  That's not to say I'm not writing to say something either.  I do.  Quite often.  It is only to say that when I write just for the sake of writing there's nothing wrong with that either.  In fact I have a number of stories that simply aren't there for anything other than mindless entertainment.  Some of the most celebrated works were accident.  Anthony Burgess didn't write A Clockwork Orange for anything other than to get his foot in the door and some quick cash to pay some bills.  In fact, there are so few who actually put down the words on paper thinking people will still be reading it centuries or decades later.  And yes, many of the literary greats we enjoy today were dismissed as hacks or nothing more than popular entertainment back in their day.  Shakespeare even suffered from this.  He was often dismissed by the literary elite in his time as well.  Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe were held in much higher esteem than Shakespeare was during his time, and yet they're the ones that none of us really know about.  Even Shakespeare wasn't wasn't considered very literary in his time.  He was just considered... well... popular fiction.  So one can wonder if maybe Shakespeare was into being thematic as well, or if we just slapped themes on there that we noticed, but that Shakespeare never intended.

Themes are great, but more often than not what ends up happening to readers is they pull out themes they see, but perhaps the writer of those themes wasn't thinking them.  Often times literary snobs and teachers etc. can get too obsessed with themes and symbolism.  As I said, J.D. Salinger may not have really meant for Holden's hat to symbolize anything in his book The Catcher in the Rye.  In fact the symbolism of Holden's hat was thought up by someone and simply agreed upon by another. So when someone says something like, "Why did she decide to have three children," you can happily respond with saying: "She got knocked up three times.  Three means nothing!"  It probably doesn't mean anything.  More than just your character having three children, maybe that's just how many children you saw in your mind.  Or maybe you just needed three children because it was somehow important to the plot.  As humans we typically don't like for there to be no significance to certain things and we typically like reading into things and discovering what we're being told, or what happened.  If the number three pops up in a story a lot for example (or even multiples of three) then some are bound to think it's important and that it means something.  There's a joke that goes something like this: A writer takes a literary class in college.  Obviously he's not a well known or famous author.  To his surprise the teacher is teaching his book.  This ought to be easy, he thinks, because it's his book.  He wrote it and he still knows everything about it.  Everything he meant.  Yet when it finally comes to taking the test on his own novel... he fails because the symbolism and themes that he saw and that he found important were not the same symbolism and themes that the teacher saw and found important. 

Oh yes, teachers and literary snobs can be a little too demanding when it comes to theme, symbolism... and metaphor.  Metaphors are, of course, when you compare two unlike things (a simile is when you use "like" or "as" most people say, but similes have come to be described as metaphors too).  I agree with George Orwell to try your best to avoid cliches, but the only downside to that is how some writers take that to heart so much that they often decide they must go even further and avoid the familiar.  Cliches are here to stay.  You don't have to constantly rely on phrases such as like a madman.  Or he was as ferocious as a tiger.  Sure these things do get used an awful lot and readers pick up on them.  And while metaphors are beautiful, they can be used a little too often and extended for too long.  Metaphors are still beautiful things.  Although I've never been opposed to the predictable and the cliche.  If your reader enjoys the story, he's apt to let cliches slide by anyway.  Many of our most popular films, books, video games and television shows aren't reinventing the wheel.  For some odd reason people are baffled by this.  Oh, originality hits high up there too (there are very few souls opposed to seeing something "new"), but no one should be surprised when something predictable and cliche becomes popular or well loved as well.  Sometimes people aren't looking for something unpredictable and sometimes the writer and entertainer isn't about making something unpredictable either.  The writers who are often writing to say something, such as Sapphire with her novel "Push" (you all know it as the movie "Precious") wasn't written so that you'd be on the edge of your seat wondering "What happens next?"  It was an emotional story that centered on how a character changed.  And yes, you can most certainly predict that change.  But it's never that she changes, it's mostly about the "how."  That doesn't mean there aren't bad cliches, but it does mean that every story has a chance at being just as predictable.  If some of the events in a story aren't properly foreshadowed and the end result ends up feeling like it's coming out of no where then people won't praise it for being unpredictable... they'll pan it for being a deus ex machina. 

And let's be honest, most of us know how the story ends.  The hero swoops the big breasted woman up and they ride off into the sunset.  The monster is defeated.  The two characters find true love with one another.  The innocent go unpunished.  The bad guy goes punished.  Most times we know exactly how a story will end.  It's the ride that's important.  Let me put it this way: What's worse... knowing the ending or being tricked?  I don't know about you, but I hate it when I'm tricked.  Jodi Picoult's "Perfect Match" was a good book, but that didn't make the ending any good.  Point is... no one wants to take the time to plow through 500 pages only to find out that some stupid thing that could've happened on page one is the reason for the ending.  Don't lead us through an elaborate murder mystery only to find out some idiot off the street actually solved the murder while your main character was busy digging for clues on page 16.  The reader feels tricked and duped.  LIke I said, an ending that's predictable is always going to feel better than being tricked.

This makes it sound as though writing is a chore and a big deal.  But it's not really a big deal, depending on how you come to it.  I settled into writing, revising and polishing my works a while ago.  And I find the craft fascinating.  The story, the characters (which are always interesting to talk about, but I won't here--perhaps a datapoint is in order) and the rewriting and revising stuff (the part that turns most people away from the craft).  I like to think of writing as an art.  It's more a passion, however.  And while I really dive into the craft, you don't have to if you don't want to.  Maybe you're the type that simply likes to record his or her thoughts down in a diary everyday--where the rules really don't matter (and hey, rules are meant to be broken).

And maybe you're the type that just does it to do it.  And there's nothing wrong with that, either.  If you're the type that loves to write for the sake of telling a story for friends or others then that's fine too.  After all, if you're writing for the sake of entertainment--I consider you an artist.  And an artist doesn't have to be loved, he just has to create.  And an artist deserves to step back and appreciate his own art.  Even if others around him don't.  I'll leave you with a nice quote from Theodore Roosevelt to sum up my feelings.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Keep chasing the dream.  The well is full of everlasting inspiration.  If you do it and you enjoy it, then keep doing it.  If it's to have a little fun... then have a little fun.  It's writing.  It's not done for the sake of proving yourself in anyway.  It's done for the sake of passion and love.

And we all deserve a little passion and love.

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July 16, 2010
I really enjoyed your focus on reading being an important activity for those who enjoy writing. I've always felt that what you described is very true. And I also agree that any reading material, no matter how "low brow," is valuable. The most important thing for me is to inspire others to read. Finally, I liked your section about the second draft. One of the reasons my reviews (and all writing really) takes so long to be posted live is because I work from multiple drafts. I believe strongly in a revision approach to writing. Anyway, great thoughts! Thanks for sharing them!
 
April 09, 2010
whoa. what a composition! I'll have to take two sittings at this review....I'll be right back to comment further. I am printing it to sell to your fans, Sean LOL!
April 10, 2010
ok, now I am done. As always, my friend you have the uncanny ability to look at all viewpoints. I can't really add anything significant except that BRAVO! Now...I am getting inspired to go philosophical again...
 
April 09, 2010
Thanks for your contribution to the Inspirations Community, Sean! Great review and it will proved to be useful for aspiring writers! Strangely enough, I don't consider myself fond of writing but I certainly write quite a bit. Still puzzle me :-) Anyhow, looking forward to more works from you and all the best in getting published!
April 09, 2010
I thought it would be a nice little (uh... metaphorically speaking?) write up for your community. 
April 09, 2010
Anything that helps or inspires others are fine by me ;-) And being able to polish up one's writing to convey one's idea is the foundation to communication and interaction!
 
April 09, 2010
Wow, that's quite a bit of writing on the topic of writing!  This was a very intriguing read considering that it's coming from as prolific a writer as yourself, so it's neat to see what's going on inside your head and where you draw your passion from.  Thanks for sharing, Sean, and for the tips!
 
1
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
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I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols (known as a writing system). Writing may use abstract characters that represent phonetic elements of speech, as in Indo-European languages, or it may use simplified representations of objects or concepts, as in east-Asian and ancient Egyptian pictographic writing forms. However, it is distinguished fromillustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.

Writing is an extension of human language across time and space. Writing most likely began as a consequence of political expansion in ancient cultures, which needed reliable means for transmitting information, maintaining financial accounts, keeping historical records, and similar activities. Around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration outgrew the power of memory, and writing became a more dependable method of recording and presenting transactions in a permanent form (Robinson, 2003, p. 36). In both Mesoamerica and Ancient Egypt writing may have evolved through calendrics and a political necessity for recording historical and environmental events.

Writing, more particularly, refers to two things: writing as a noun, the thing that is written; and writing as a verb, which designates the activity of writing. It refers to the inscription ofcharacters on a medium, thereby forming words, and larger ...

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