On a mission: To be a good writer

I started blogging because I wanted to write better and become a writer. Even after blogging for three years, that still remains my strongest driving force.  However, I’ve never done any serious research on good writing, so I thought I should get to it.

Like any generic google search the “How to be a good writer” search is full of links that don’t have enough content in them to be valued so high on the search results. I thought it would be valuable for the community if I utilise my time by demoting links which weren’t useful. It turned out I had to demote two results for every one that I found useful. Nevertheless, I persisted on my mission and I am now about to write a gist of what I learnt.

The wikiHow is a good start but just like most wikis has a lot of content but little structure within the content. Yet, I think the most valuable points from the wiki are that one must try and write everyday. Reading a lot will help improve vocabulary and grammar. Improving one’s vocabulary though will require active effort not just reading. Maintaining a vocabulary notebook might be a good idea. Plan your writing but write the first draft quickly. Be specific and tailor your writing to the audience.

MD Weems notes that one must start with what you know and start with small articles. “Your writing must instill confidence in a mind that is inclined to doubt you” says Robert Warren who makes two very good points on how to keep the reader on the writer’s side by being bold and confident and maintaining an optimistic, positive tone.

Most people seemed to suggest that one must always read their own writing and make edits and to gauge one’s writing it is best to have someone else read it and get their opinion. Reading will help you gain knowledge about different styles of writing and explore new perspectives.

To conclude, I would like to share some interesting quotes on good writing:

  • “Write without pay until somebody offers pay” and “When you catch adjectives, kill most of them — then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together; they give strength when they are wide apart.” — Mark Twain
  • The abstract is seldom as effective as the concrete. — John Gardner
  • Vigorous writing is concise. — William Strunk Jr.
  • Don’t write about Man, write about a man. — E.B. White
  • Is every word doing new work? — William Zinsser
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active. — George Orwell
  • Pick up every sentence in turn, asking ourselves if we can possibly make it shorter. — Sheridan Baker
  • We don’t reject writers; we reject pieces of paper with typing on them — Isaac Asimov
  • Ptahotep noted, “Happy is the heart of him who writes; he is young each day.” Yes, but only if he writes from the heart, and not just for copious beer. — Marvin Olasky
  • “The first million words you write will be crap” — Anonymous

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6 thoughts on “On a mission: To be a good writer”

  1. Nice post, and I mostly agree, but I prefer the full version of Strunk’s quote, because it also emphasises that conciseness alone is not good.

    “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

    I think the above paragraph is one of the most beautiful pieces of prose I have ever read 🙂

  2. Thank you for an awe inspiring read. I much enjoyed this post. I look forward to reading more of your works. If this had a rating I would have to say 10 asterisks

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