Monday, October 22, 2007

three rules of good writing

today i am guest-teaching a writing class for my friend who has to be in court. it's been a while since i had to teach a class of college freshmen/sophmores, so i'm looking forward to it. plus, the college is right around the corner from baby jake! what a great reason to stop in for a cuddle!!!

(note to self- wear something poop-proof.)

it's also a good reason to think about what i think good writing is. there's a lot of awful writing out there, much of it in print. people seem intimidated by their language. it's a shame really, even though i appreciate emoticons as much as anyone. i like shortcuts and pictures really DO say a thousand words. wouldn't it be funny if a thousand years from now, everyone all communicates in grunts, gestures, pictographs and LOL's and they shake their heads over the poor primitives who had to use WORDS and SENTENCES to talk? our descendents will pity us for the books we had to drag around. i can see mine now, shrinkwrapped and shellaqued against the ravages of time, made into my great-great-great-great + 10 grandchildren's headboards.

somerset maugham, the english novelist, said that there's only three rules of good writing. the trouble is that no one can agree on what they are. here's my updated list.

1. don't be afraid to write garbage. what comes out of my head is frequently as smelly as what comes out of my butt. that's why i rewrite as much as i do.

2. pay attention. god really IS in the details. a writer is first an observer. actions speak louder than words. what a person does is a lot more telling than what he says. your five senses are the way to connect with your reader. so pay attention to everything.

3. have a reason or a goal. every journey should have a destination, or at least a reason for it. if you don't know where you're going with a piece, at least have a reason for writing it in the first place. (yes, i need to pass this course is a perfectly acceptable reason, as is, if i don't tell this story, the characters will eat their way out of my head.) all reasons are acceptable. just know yours.

so there... in a nutshell... is what i will take roughly forty minutes to say. any questions? :)

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