Monday, June 11, 2012

When Your Writing Becomes Natural

I talk a lot here about technique in writing. Technique and specific writing stategies are crucial to any writer to convey a truly powerful story. And yet, to truly achieve that level of "great" writing, on a regular basis requires doing a bit more than simply using those technical skills.

One of the things I spot in projects that I pass on, are authors who clearly know the skills necessary to tell a story, but the execution of those skills just doesn't show itself in the story. In other words, the author is still in the learning stages of those skills.

Think of playing a piano or other musical instrument. When we first start, we look at the notes on the page in front of us and have to really think. "Ah, that is a B Flat." At that point we look down to the keyboard and have to find the B Flat.

When we start working on our multiplication tables, we have to really think that 6 X 7 = 42. Our brain actually says each of those words individually just to process the equation. "Six times seven is equal to ..... um..... 42."

But when we start to become comfortable with those skills our brain automatically just skils the "thinking" phase and executes the action. Our hand just moves to the B flat when our eyes see it on a page. Our brains replace the equation  6 X 7 with an automatic "42".

When it comes to our writing, we do the same things. Early on in our writing, we have to really think through what we are doing. We concentrate on use of adjectives and adverbs. We concentrate on dialogue tags. We obsess over the balance between narration and dialogue.

But, with time, this comes naturally for a writer.

Have you noticed one common trend though all of this? It takes TIME and PRACTICE. This is, once again one of those reasons why we say that becoming successful is not an over-night activity.

When will you be ready? That depends on you and your learning curve. You will know though. There will be a moment in your writing when it "just happens." Then you know you are finally on your way!

Sorry for the late post this AM. Will get to this sooner tomorrow!



  1. Hi Scott: A timely theme because I've been concerned my writing has become "too easy." I don't painstakingly choose almost every word. Although I'm still "becoming" the actor, not to the extent I once did. Of course, some of that depends on which actor it is. I worry that the lack of emotion I'm putting into the work will convey to the reader. Thanks for the blog.
    Mike Addington

    1. Interesting. Do you feel less passionate the easier the writing becomes? I've noticed that too in some instances, because before I cared as much about the technical aspects, I was much more unhindered. I think for some people, though, having the technical aspects down frees them up to pour more emotion into the writing. I've been able to cultivate a little bit of that mindset over the years, but it's definitely a mental challenge.

    2. Hi Kristin: Your use of the word "passionate" really hit home for me. I'm working on my fourth novel and the previous three were all about important events/people in my life, whose story I was passionate about telling. I'm working on a SF novel because I had a great idea and think that an entertaining book can be made around it. I haven't thought through the differences I commented on previously and the lack of emotion versus the passion I had with the others, but I think, if I bring in people/events I do care about into this story, that may indeed bring back the spark I feel is lacking. Can't tell you how much I appreciate your comments because I wanted the book to be as good as the idea and didn't feel it was going in that direction. Thanks again and happy writing to you.

  2. Writing across two different styles makes me slow down. During the day I have to use AP style for the local paper. At night I'm working on a romantic suspense. Although I've used AP style longer, I find I have to read through to change all the "said she" to "she said." And change all numbers above nine from words to characters.

  3. Interesting, Corrie. By day I am a technical writer and instructional designer. A lot of my work is creating slides where I have to make complex concepts clear in as few words as possible. I find that exercise helps my fiction writing. It's all about words and sentences, isn't it? Love them!

  4. I admire the fiction of the technical writers in my writing critique group.

    The one advantage I have at my current paper is that the editor doesn't have to change all my verb tenses like he does for the rest of the staff. Well, not generally.I admit I'm not perfect.