Monday, November 19, 2012

ABC's of Writing - (U)nderstand Why You Use Those Writing Techniques

One of the things I love to teach in writing is grammar. Sure, I fully understand that many of you would simply want the darn stuff to go away and let the computer, and eventually your copy editors take care of things for you, but I love it. When I do get the chance to teach grammar, I really try to push one point that makes learning the subject much easier.

For most, learning grammar involved memorizing rules and when it came time to be tested on the grammar, we knew the rules but we simply couldn't apply the skill to the sentences or our writing. My approach takes a slightly different approach. While memorizing those definitions is fine, the real success comes with understanding what that part of speech is doing in the sentence. In other words, instead of know the "WHAT" it is of the concept, we learn the "WHY" we use it element.

The same goes for all of those writing techniques we are taught in books, workshops, and here on these blogs. For far too many authors, I see submissions and writing that demonstrates the writer knew WHAT to use but not sure WHY they did it.

Your success as a writer will come the moment you see and understand the rationale for everything you do in the story. For some this does come naturally, for the majority of writers, this will come from a lot of practice and THINKING about what you writer.

A good example of this would be query letters. I know there are a ton of approaches for writing query letters, but unless you know why those elements are in the query letter, you are missing the point. For me, I am a proponent of putting the basic information about your book in the very beginning. You start out telling me the title, genre, word count and slip in the high concept. Yes, I know there are some agents out there who "scream" that you never do that. Their rationale is the author is implying the agent is stupid. "No duh this is a submission." But here is the twist... By putting the information in the beginning, I am accomplishing two things: First, if the query is being opened by someone other than the agent you want, that secretary or intern can now have the context of the query and send it to the right person. Secondly, when it is in the hands of the right agent, that person can already think about potential placement, or even if there has been an editor who was looking for such a project.

Again, for many writers, they simply feel that putting that information in the query is simply there because we are told to do so. Far from it. There is a purpose.

The same goes for all of the things you do within your story. The list is endless: 1st/3rd person; use of information dumping; dialogue tags, as well as placement; etc. etc. etc. Sure, some writer or editor said to use it, but do you know why you use it? Do you know how it controls your story.

Take the time over the upcoming Turkey day to examine the WHY behind your techniques. If you really don't know it, maybe it is time to start asking.



  1. I owe Joanne a bit "Thank You" for directing me to your blog this morning through her Finds for Fridays. I'm definitely signing up for you emails.
    God Bless.

  2. Fantastic article! Thanks to Joanne for directing me me here.