Writing is a craft, in the hands of a master it becomes an art. – N. B. Cole
Just because you can speak English doesn’t mean you can write. It is as difficult as learning to play the piano or perfecting a ballet performance. – James Hall, proffessor of Creative Writing.
There is nothing like the grand, golden, gorgeous semi-orgasmic feeling a writer gets from creating a literary masterpiece. A work that thrills readers, quiets critics and reaffirms the writer’s belief that he has a gift, that she has a gift. In a world where 60 percent of literary journals /magazines are unable or unwilling to pay for published material, applause is the absolute least any writer desires from his efforts. Couple that with the effusive fawning the average writer gets from well meaning friends and family members and most writers find it difficult to believe they are not all that, or not that. Which brings us to the matter at hand, how can we get better when we don’t realise that there is much to do, to learn and to polish before we can truly have a spot among the literary greats? Is it wise to sit in our little bubbles and decide to send out our writing without giving it our best effort? Is it fair on one’s audience or oneself to publish a first draft? Is it sane? If we don’t listen to or indeed encourage honest peer review and critique will we ever get past where we are to where we want to be?
Questions, questions….questions all of us must answer if we hope to write better, to be better.
Well, today’s gist is not of the philosophical manner and so I will just proceed to the few points I wish to share, hoping that I will be a catalyst in taking your writing from here to there.
So here goes.
1.Set Your Writing Goals.
What do you want to accomplish with your writing? Is it to be a hobby that you treat shabbily while lighter weight talents hone their crafts for national and indeed global honours? Do you want to write just for the gallery? For that select group of people that guzzle up all your offerings without noticing bad pun or verb/pronoun disagreements? If you aim for the latter, then read no further, keep doing things the way you have done them. I assure you there will be no grand or noteworthy happening to disrupt your comfort zone’s workings. If on the other hand you believe that you are talented, that you have have a gift for words and a calling for creating beauty through words and world of beauty then read on. There might be a thing or two for you to glean. Afterall as @chemokopi says there is no end to learning. It is also important to know how much writing you want to do, Are you aiming for two bits of haiku and a drabble or would you rather write seven bestsellers and two poetry anthologies? Knowing how much you want to write and setting time lines to it will go along way in shaping your choices in that regard. Be bold but honest, remember your greatest competitor is your self.
2. Polish Till It Shines.
The first eight drafts are terrible – Malcolm Gladwell
Every professional writer knows that the first draft is nothing but a warm up. Amateurs however think their first drafts are bursts of heavenly inspiration, words from the gods, pieces of pure literary brilliance that should never be touched or edited. Nonsense. The masters are masters because they have acquired certain skills and they have found out what works and what doesn’t. One thing that definitely doesn’t work is submitting the first string of words you manage to spill out on a piece of paper or on a Word document. To give your writing any chance at all you have to rewrite it. Not once,not twice not even thrice. Then when you have done that get a writer or editor whose opinion you respect to look it over for you. Don’t be satisfied with average, this is the difference between cocoa seeds and chocolate. You might have a great diamond of a story but no one will notice it unless it shines. Remember this -The best writing is not written, It is rewritten over and over again, then edited, by two paid editors – F.W. Read.
3. Read Your Work Out Loud.
I must confess this was something I learnt fairly recently. It is easy to believe that reading aloud must have died sometime in the junior secondary years and now we can just follow with our eyes silently imbibing the gist of the story/poem. Wrong. Reading aloud helps you experience your story the way a first reader will. It stops your inner voice from interjecting words that aren’t on the page. It also gives you a chance to evaluate the entertainment potential of a piece. Something that is very important in today’s world where the written word is leaping off the page unto the stage through readings and spoken word performances.
4. Learn From The Best.
Every writer has heard the ” read, read, read” rhyme but many writers don’t know what it means. Simply, it means read the work of great writers in the genre that you want to write in. So if you want to write great romance stories then Mills and Boons, Harlequin Romances and @Myne should be regular fare on your shelf. If you are more inclined to poetry then you should keenly study the works of Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, JP Clark and @xikay. Study, don’t copy. As a friend of mine said: When you find a great piece of writing, take it home, pull it apart, study every inch, find out what makes it work then find a way to apply those techniques to your own writing. While studying other peopls’s work, you might find things that you don’t like. That’s fine, just swallow the sugar and throw away the sugar cane pulp.
Avoid poorly written prose and poetry, what you read is what you will write.
5. Write Everyday
It is a tall order, I know, but if you really want to be the village beauty then you have to endure some pain ehn? Okay, crappy proverb, but you get what I mean. Nothing good comes easy, nothing easy ends up good etc etc.To be the best in any field one thing you absolutely must have is commitment. Social scientists have gone even further to describe the 10,000 hours rule. This states that to be a world class expert in any field one needs to have spent at least ten thousand hours studying and practising that skill , craft or trade. So, you can see why this hasty scribbling-stories-for-contests attitude won’t help you. If you want to see your writing celebrated internationally you have to attend to it faithfully – every month, every week, every day.
Well, I think I have done more than my 20 Cents or 30 Naira worth , ( I know it is not about the money , except for folks like me, but that is another post entirely. Watch out For “Money For Hand – The Frustrations Of Asawo Writer” coming soon. ) Please be generous, honest and gentle in the comments section, it is the only way I ll be encouraged to write part two.
What are the things that have made you a better writer? You can share those in the comments section as well . Much love and thanks for reading. Adieu