Writer

Better Writing For Dummies , Newbies And Caine Prize Winner Wannabees. Part One

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

Comments

comments


21 thoughts on “Better Writing For Dummies , Newbies And Caine Prize Winner Wannabees. Part One” by Sunshine (@nicolebassey)

  1. Profile photo of khadijahmuhammad
    khadijahmuhammad (@khadijahmuhammad): Senior Scribe - 21725 pts

    I enjoyed reading this post.I learnt the hard way to stop entering contests. I actually know my weak points.I have been working hard to improve my craft.I try to write for one hour each day and I am reading books on how to improve my craft.Hopefully one day I will be able to afford Editors.It will make things easier.I hope to be a good Children and young adult writer.I want to win a Nobel prize for poetry one day.I have discovered that the difference between a story teller and writer is research.Poetry is the most difficult genre of all.It is easier to write a story than to write a poem.

    1. Profile photo of Sunshine
      Sunshine (@nicolebassey): Head Wordsmith - 51448 pts

      Wow, Thank you for your honest and spirited response. All the best in your endeavours.

  2. Profile photo of Seun-Odukoya
    Seun-Odukoya (@Seun-Odukoya): Head Wordsmith - 103819 pts

    Hmmmm.

    Hm.

    I just think that.

    1. Profile photo of Sunshine
      Sunshine (@nicolebassey): Head Wordsmith - 51448 pts

      Go on, @Seun-Odukoya , Share!

      1. Profile photo of Seun-Odukoya
        Seun-Odukoya (@Seun-Odukoya): Head Wordsmith - 103819 pts

        @nicolebassey,

        No offense but…

        WHO ARE YOU?

        1. Profile photo of Sunshine
          Sunshine (@nicolebassey): Head Wordsmith - 51448 pts

          Loooooool, 10Ns points Blog post submitter, WHO ARE YOU??? @Seun-Odukoya

  3. Profile photo of elovepoetry
    elovepoetry (@elovepoetry): Wordsmith - 34285 pts

    Nice articles for writers.

    1. Profile photo of Sunshine
      Sunshine (@nicolebassey): Head Wordsmith - 51448 pts

      yes @elovepoetry , thank you for reading, a note to self too. :-) .

  4. Profile photo of topazo
    topazo (@topazo): Head Wordsmith - 59207 pts

    To be a writer, one must first be a reader… And write, yes many will end up in the trash…

    1. Profile photo of Sunshine
      Sunshine (@nicolebassey): Head Wordsmith - 51448 pts

      Lol @ trash, thanks for your words @topazo and your time.

  5. Profile photo of Daireen
    Daireen (@daireenonline): Scribe - 16241 pts

    I like this…

    Thanks for sharing…I think I have at least 1k hrs now, need to quickly use up the remaining 9k. And yup, heard that theory tipe tipe.

    Again, nicely done.

    1. Profile photo of Sunshine
      Sunshine (@nicolebassey): Head Wordsmith - 51448 pts

      l’m glad you found it useful. @daireenonline , many thanks for your kind words.

  6. Profile photo of chemokopi
    chemokopi (@chemokopi): Head Wordsmith - 281710 pts

    So on point! Very nice and insightful article, and I found the quotes thought-provoking. Reading aloud is a proven winner in toolkit of a writer.

    Lots of stuff to take away from here. Thanks for this. Well done.

    1. Profile photo of Sunshine
      Sunshine (@nicolebassey): Head Wordsmith - 51448 pts

      Thank you boss, your comment is an encouragement.

  7. Profile photo of Sunnypa
    Sunnypa (@Sunnypa91): Newbie - 192 pts

    Wole Soyinka said “And I believe that the best kind of learning process of any kind of craft is just to look at the works of others.”

    Nice constructive instructions.

    1. Profile photo of Sunshine
      Sunshine (@nicolebassey): Head Wordsmith - 51448 pts

      It sure is @Sunnypa91 Thanks for reading.

  8. Profile photo of funpen
    funpen (@funpen): Scribe - 11822 pts

    @nicolebassey

    thank you for this great article. I enjoyed it. Everything is true. The reading aloud thing was something I used to do to drown out noise (kids, and siblings when I was younger) and it works great, especially for poetry. It helps to know how your story sounds to someone listening too.

    Thanks for all the advice. The one I will take away from here is to rewrite 8 times. I remember my very first few N S post. Someone mentioned it smelled like a first draft. It was actually a third draft, but then…..I realize that the ones that became editor’s picks were the poems I had taken time to polish, some for years even.

    But how does one contact an editor and how much is the going rate?

  9. Profile photo of funpen
    funpen (@funpen): Scribe - 11822 pts

    @nicolebassey

    thank you for this great article. I enjoyed it. Everything is true. The reading aloud thing was something I used to do to drown out noise (kids, and siblings when I was younger) and it works great, especially for poetry. It helps to know how your story sounds to someone listening too.

    Thanks for all the advice. The one I will take away from here is to rewrite 8 times. I remember my very first few N S post. Someone mentioned it smelled like a first draft. It was actually a third draft, but then…..I realize that the ones that became editor’s picks were the poems I had taken time to polish, some for years even.

    But how does one contact an editor and how much is the going rate?

  10. Profile photo of Zazu
    Zazu (@literati): Scribe - 12659 pts

    Nicely done @nicolebassey, very nice, thank you!
    I’ll just leave this here:
    How to write a scene in 11 steps. (Based on a blog post by johnaugust.com)

    1: What needs to happen in this scene?
    2: What’s the worst that would happen if this scene were omitted?
    3: Who needs to be in this scene?
    4: Where could the scene take place?
    5: What’s the most surprising thing that could happen in this scene?
    6: Is this a long scene or a short scene?
    7: Brainstorm three different ways it could begin
    8: Play it on the screen in your head
    9: Write a scribble version
    10: Write the full scene
    11: Repeat 200 times.

    1. Profile photo of Sunshine
      Sunshine (@nicolebassey): Head Wordsmith - 51448 pts

      Wow @literati thanks!

  11. Profile photo of innoalifa
    innoalifa (@innoalifa): Head Wordsmith - 114013 pts

    @nicolebassey
    GREAT WORDS to all writers and would-be writers…….

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