Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Today in Writing Class

Today in my Writing in Psychology class I went over five habits that novice writers should strive to develop. These are:

1. Make time for writing: With the emphasis on the "make." Finding time is hard. We're all busy folks. But making time involves getting to know your daily schedule and then carving out a piece to consistently use for writing or writing related chores (like thinking and planning).

2. Look up things you have a question about: Consistently, and immediately, look up new words that you come across in your reading. Look up the answers to when you should use "to" or "too," or "Lay or Lie." I suggested they start a "problem" file in their notebook or on computer that provides the answers to those questions they frequently struggle with.

3. Do multiple drafts of everything: I tell them, assume when you finish your first draft that it isn't good enough to hand in. Rewriting is the key for most writers to be able to produce publishable, or grade-worthy written work.

4. Use writing to challenge yourself: Take different approaches with different papers. Stretch your skills. Take risks. Treat writing as a muscle that needs exercising.

5. Read: I tell 'em that good readers are good writers, and that the more they read the better they'll write.

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41 comments:

David J. West said...

Excellent concise advice.

Wasn't trying to ryhme.

Rick said...

I sense another writing book coming on... and I'll be first in line to buy it.

Lana Gramlich said...

#1 applies to art, too, and even when I have the time, sometimes, I don't really have the drive. Persistence pays, though, so I've been trying to force myself to work on that falcon at least a little every day.

Erik Donald France said...

%100 agreed and right on.

(#1 also applies to working out, which is yet another time suck, which I've also added to the regular mix).

Natasha Fondren said...

I have to look up lay/lie constantly. What's really funny is that in my first few years of writing, I had that down perfectly. No problem. It's really sort of weird.

the walking man said...

i have to agree with all of it especially the not being shy about using reference materials.

G said...

I agree with #5. Since I started trying to move my stories in the direction of relationships/romance, I've made an geniune effort to read...ugh...fiction that covers that familiar territory.

Surprisingly, I found quite a few good books, that I enjoyed reading and tried to pick up a few tips in the process.

#1 has been a virtual impossibility as of late.

Sidney said...

I'm kind of amazed, in the age of Google, that you have to tell people "look things up." Yet I find people all the time standing around scratching their heads about one factoid or another. In the country of the blind, the person who takes time to look things up is king.

Bernita said...

Perfect.

writtenwyrdd said...

If it's a grammatical issue, I just write a blog post about it. Then I can always find it.

But your points are so right on, Charles. In particular the 'make time for writing' with the emphasis on MAKE. That's the kicker: butt has to be planted in chair!

Charles Gramlich said...

David, I guess you're a poet and didn't know it. :)

Rick, man that my be a while. That well has to fill up again. ;)

Lana, you should just do "beaks" baby. That might be your thing. Your beak is awesome!

Erik, I tell the students these things apply to other behaviors too, like studying!

Natasha, I still do too. Those are my hardest ones.

Mark, I tell 'em that pretty much everything they need to know is written down somewhere.

G., I don't think I can even imagine writing in a field that I've never read in. I'd feel like a fish out of water.

Sidney, I see students who really don't know how to look things up unless they have their internet handy. But I do think that's helped quite a few of them.

Bernita, thankee!

Writtenwyrd, we spent quite a while talking about looking at their schedule to see where and how their time was spent, and how critical or noncritical it might be.

Gabby said...

I love your last tip! I think that's why so many people don't write very well these days (regardless if it's something as simple as an e-mail, to as complex as a paper, or a novel) -- they don't read!

I had a friend and her boyfriend over last night, and he has some ideas that he's wanting to write about, and he asked for some recommendations on authors to read so he could get an idea. I gave him a few, but I really did forget this little gem you posted about. Read, read, read! Thanks!

Ocean Girl said...

Thank you Charles. I want to write more, I will write more. I'm taking all of the advise, especially number 4.

SQT said...

I'm pretty sure reading would benefit everyone, whether they want to write or not. I can't believe the grammar you run into on Facebook and elsewhere. I try not to be a grammar snob; mine isn't perfect either. But the constant misuse of words like...[your & you're] and [their & there & they're]...is unreal. I always wonder how some people cope in the professional world without basic grammar skills. Does it matter anymore?

laughingwolf said...

all good, charles... and one should read about more than subjects one likes, anything to broaden one's scope

ArtSparker said...

Great down-to-earth list. I'll link to this tomorrow under my "books" post as I love that pithiness...

jennifer said...

Lay/lie... ACK! Add effect/affect to my problem file.

Great advice!

BernardL said...

I like your 'problem' file idea a lot.

ivan said...

...And don't forget to tell them, after they've published their first piece, to throw away their dictionary and thesaurus. That's what journeymen do.

ivan said...

...And don't forget to tell them, after they've published their first piece, to throw away their dictionary and thesaurus. That's what journeymen do.

ivan said...

Whoops.

Compulsive publisher and misspeller!

I should take some advise?

Peter Newland said...

Excellent advice!

on #2: I am constantly surprised by the forwarded emails I get that I can debunk with a quick trip to snopes.com or factcheck.org... These aren't all political either, they would include urban legends and other hokey stuff.

As Sid pointed out, it's not as if basic research is all that strenuous in the Yah!Google Age.

Akasha Savage. said...

I think this is good advice to all writers, novice or otherwise.

Voidwalker said...

I like advice #4, not that they aren't all good, but #4 sticks out in my mind.

I'm trying to do that as I branch out and write a YA romance/paranormal (NO Vamps or werewolves) lol

Steve Malley said...

Dude, you are SO totally wisdomous...

jodi said...

Charles, I have found that dicipline is much easier when you are doing something you love...

Laurie said...

#5 is the one that sticks out for me - but they're all excellent tips.

Charles Gramlich said...

Gabby, and it's not just not reading, but even when people do read they often merely scan or surface read, I think.

Ocean Girl, I've found when I've done a few articles or stories that are similar I get bored and have to jar myself up somewhat.

SQT, part of it is the fast paced way people respond to things. They don't think, but such sloppy habits can become second nature unfortunately.

laughingwolf, agreed. I was telling some students in another class today about reading outside your immediate interests and finding ways to make it interesting for you.

ArtSparker, thanks. I appreciate that.

jennifer, I've finally gotten affect and effect pretty much down but lay and lie continue to befuddle me.

BernardL, I keep it handy on my computer so I can open it whenever I run into an issue I've faced before. I also keep such details in it as how to write times and dates and so on.

ivan, I've disobeyed that rule and still use mine all the time. I know Stephen King said to never use a thesaurus, but I don't agree.

Peter Newland, good point. I will talk later in the semester about how you can figure out whether to trust a work or not.

Akasha Savage, thanks.

Voidwalker, that would definitely be a challenge for me. I've tried a lot of different characters as a way of challenging myself, and trying different points of view and so on.

Steve Malley, I like that. I'm going to start useing that as a tagline. Charles Gramlich, Widomous Extraordinare.

jodi, that's true. I have no discipline about exericising for example.

Laurie, thanks, I appreciate that.

Demon Hunter said...

Very good advice. :-D Ah, the time factor was the most difficult for me. :-D But now, not so much.

Vesper said...

Great advice, Charles. My main problem is no. 1. Yeah, I should make the time... :-)

Randy Johnson said...

Good advice all through.

I remember John D, MacDonald in a piece talking about people walking up to him and, saying "I always wanted to be a writer!" His reply was "I always wanted to be a brain surgeon!"

The point being you have to write, practice your craft, to be a writer. You don't have that luxury as a brain surgeon. Very few people will allow one to practice on their brains.

Of course, he wasn't dissing these folks(although some believed so). You can't just talk about being a writer, but, like any other career, it takes a lot of work.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I was shocked in the writing classes/workshops I took how little most of them had read. It really handicapped their ability to critique other students stories too.

Charles Gramlich said...

Demon Hunter, I'd always done so much reading that I just transferred some of that time to writing so it wasn't that bad for me.

Vesper, there are days when you can't. I haven't written in 2 days because of a piled up load of school work. But I'm getting antsy.

Randy Johnson, I don't think most folks have an idea how tough it can be and how much effort goes into the writing thing before they really start trying to do it themselves.

pattinase, I find that too, with folks who do read but only in one narrow area. Their critiques lack impact because they aren't familiar with a wide range of material.

sage said...

Good advice! But my blog post seldom goes through multi-edits, but I've never submitted anything, even to the newspaper, without multi-edits and someone else reading what I wrote.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, I don't do too many edits on blog posts either. I do some. I consider this relatively casual writing, as opposed to formal writing.

David Cranmer said...

Five logical, simple rules that are overlooked frequently. I've received a few submissions at BTAP that begin: "I've never read a horror story, but thought I'd send one your way?!?" And needless to say they're always awful.

Charles Gramlich said...

David Cranmer, and probably usually horribly cliche!

Christina said...

Great points! When new writers ask me, I tell them read a lot in many different genres. Read the newspaper, read articles, read, read, read.

But then, I don't feel like I'm much in a position to give much advice. I still feel like there is so much I have left to learn.

Barrie said...

All sounds good to me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Christina, read more is probably a very safe advice. No way it could hurt a new writer for sure.

Barrie, thanks.

Travis said...

I remember these tips from my very first creative writing class in high school. The best advice is timeless.