It speaks to the question of why should one write
Okay, so you want to write – a book, a story, an essay – whatever you want to write. But you have ZERO experience.
You know pages have words on them, and they seem to be broken up into patterns called paragraphs, but how do you know when to do that? Here are the beginning rules. Use them to get started writing your work the way it should be written.
This means, in dialogue, one person says something, then another one says something.
Each time this happens, each time the speaker changes, they get a new paragraph all to themselves, and their spoken words are contained in quote marks (BONUS tip there)
You begin your essay by describing the outside of your house. Then you want to move on to describing the inside of it. Make a new paragraph for the inside description. When you want to describe what the back yard looks like, that is another new paragraph.
This can be for a pause, a change of direction in the action, or just to change theme or thought, much like a change of topic.
You may have spent some time describing how you felt when the ambulance arrived. Then the EMT has you move into the ambulance, and you need to describe how you felt – maybe more physically than emotionally -, and what the inside of the ambulance looked like.
The arrival is one paragraph, the move into the ambulance is a second, and the description of the interior is a third.
Most of all, watch for these things in your reading. As you identify them in what you read, it will be easier for you to remember to use them in your writing.
I don’t usually cross-post, but this topic has more than one direction. It also appears in a newsletter I compile for St. Paul’s in the Pines Episcopal Church.
I like a mystery. I was raised on Agatha Christie and Mary Stewart. I watch them on TV. And, I write mysteries myself. So, why the profound interest in the fictional disasters and deaths of people I will never know?
Because in figuring out the puzzles in the stories, or creating puzzles for others, I get to explore human relationships. And in that exploration comes truth. Truth about people, about how relationships and emotions work, truth about life.
I ran across a person recently who openly berated me for not watching the news on TV. (I hadn’t said I didn’t, but that’s a different issue.)
He said, “You only know what you read.” (again, another discussion could focus on the fact that written news goes into deeper depth.)
But what I wanted to say, and sadly didn’t, was that fiction, while only limitedly a source of facts, is often a great source of truth. Stories are told to convey the very things I mentioned at the top. Behavior. Emotion. Relationships. Ideas. Concepts. In short, stories convey the truths of people. Or at least, they can. And those are the kind of stories I like to read and write.
The person speaking to me was very proud of the fact that what he knew came from his experience and TV. Personal experience is great, but it is limited in that it is one-sided and tied to the places one has personally been. Books – and other means of telling stories – take us to other people’s experiences. We get to see more than our own point of view, for better or for worse.
It happens that stories were greatly used by someone my conversation partner admired. Jesus used many parables to illustrate his points. And parables are distinctly defined as stories, not facts.
Truth can be found in jokes. Profoundness can be found in puns and homilies in war flicks. People of earth have communicated news and truths through words since they first decided ‘ugh!’ was used to describe something they didn’t like.
Words are thought of as written, like this column. But you are reading it on a screen. It could be illustrated with graphics or even an animation. And it could be shown to you on a news broadcast (however far-fetched that is). The point is, regardless of the tool or the medium, it’s all words. And the same care and deep thought should go into each and every one of those words when we share them. Especially if we are trying to convey truth.
I like mysteries. Humanity is life’s great mystery, and I view God as the author. While I never expect to solve this mystery, my hope is that by reading and writing about it, I can illuminate things a little and add a bit of truth to the pile.
We had some repair, we had a party, we had some social activism…. and we had some writing. Just nothing terribly visible at the moment. Ie, it ain’t done yet.
Ever have that feeling you’ve fenced yourself in so well with activities that you either can’t get to your desk to write, or you can’t get away from your desk to take care of other parts of your life? I know so many writers with this problem or variants, I’ve lost track of their numbers the way people lose track of how many times they go to the grocery store. It’s part of the game, and the solution is balance.
Of course, everyone is asking how you balance your life these days. We are all so overworked, over-scheduled, and overdone with it all.
The best thing I can recommend are: LISTS. I am a great lister. In fact, my kids have told me more than once that their most common memory of me is at the kitchen table (or at my desk or at the steering wheel of my van) writing down or consulting a list. Things to do, things to buy, things to make, appointments to keep, stuff to fix. All the different lists of things and tasks that make up our lives. Christmas lists. Halloween & dance costume lists.
And then there were the lists for writing. Projects to work on, people to call, revisions to do, plot points, characters, settings, timelines (not a true list, but I often list scenes or plot points to get them in order). You get the picture.
What did I do with the lists? you ask. How did they help?
Well, some didn’t. Some became nags as days went by before I could complete the items on the list. Some, embarrassingly, I find years later stuffed in a tote bag or box, still unfinished and crying out at me for abandoning them. Some deserved to be abandoned. Others are proudly marked with checkmarks, cross-outs, and revisions and additions. Beautiful working lists that helped solve my problems and put order to my universe,
Now, I have found that I have to be careful of lists. If I don’t intentionally and purposefully keep them at hand to checkmark off what I accomplish, I am more likely to forget about them as well as everything I’ve put on them. Because sometimes, putting an item on a list convinces my mind that I took care of it.
Sometimes I think the beauty of the list is in the writing. By putting things down where I can see them, I eventually detect patterns and priorities and can order things by criteria that make sense to me. It’s a matter of using a manual tool to assist a largely mental process.
So, it works or it does not work, but it’s my way of calming the whirlwinds and taming the chaos. Although, I’ve always felt a touch of chaos is a good thing.
What’s your favorite way of trying to organize?
Oops. The first link to the Author Spotlight post is no longer working. Here’s a revised one (please try it):