THE KEY TO GREAT WRITING

 

Isn't it wonderful sharing the little we may know amongst ourselves as writers? Would that

be a wonderful experience? Today I wish to share with all the newbie writers like me an informative Blog

on eight tips key to great writing, written by Dawn Field. Doctor Field is a book lover interested in what

makes great writing. After a 20-year career as a research scientist, her first book, Biocode, was published by

Oxford Press. 

 

While there is no common definition of great, she writes, all great books have the common

feature of lacking content that isn't great. Great writing does not contain "ungreat" stuff.

The internet is full of tips to improve your writing. Do this. Do that. Add this. Add that. Brainstorm this.

Flash that out. Adopt this structure. The list goes on and full of wonderful and sound pieces of proven

literary advice. There are so much advice and knowledge accumulated over the years, yet no one seems to

fully agree on what makes great writing. It is more that we just know it when we read it. Think about the fact

that we all have different favourite books. Whether it is Meyer's Twilight saga or Dante's Inferno,

some books just stand out head shoulders above the rest. Great writing can have one or more features

such as super plot, memorable characters or incredible novelty. There is no one formula. If there were,

everyone would use it. This is the beauty of writing: it is endlessly creative. The door is always open.

If there is no one formula, how can there be one key to great writing? The secret that accounts for all this diversity

of writers, writing styles and books with high impact, is that it is as much what you do as what you

don't do. Yes, this is an equally nebulous but strict rule. It is a realisation that great writing is in equal measures

The things on this list can be easily fixed, so their presence should not hold anyone back indefinitely. A good editor

can see a great book lurking within and know it is it is just a matter of time and effort to pull it out. Get your

book to publication only after it has been critically evaluated and cleansed of these eight weaknesses.

 1. The usual suspects. Bannish grammar mistakes, typos, weak verbs, etc. These are the kinds of things

that we were taught in elementary school to avoid in our writing. If this is the only problem in your book,

congratulations. A good copy editor can easily magic them all away. These are the most superficial

weaknesses in the history of writing, but also the least likely to find in a published book of great quality.

2. Inconsistencies. These gaffes are normally more serious than the mechanical errors of writing but

are clues you have not spent much time perfecting your writing. They are fundamentally disallowed, as the point

of a good book is to get the reader to suspend disbelief. If your leade leaves the house with his favourite

umbrella because the weather forecast says 100%chance of rain, you can't later have him get drenched

because he forgot his umbrella. If your lead is wearing a black shirt at the beginning of the day, it should

still black the end.

3. Problems of logic. Sometimes bahviours or outcomes that seem to defy logic make good books. Take, for example,

the battered wife who inexplicably won't leave her abusive husband in the first chapter. If done right, readers will

be duly curious to learn in later chapters the reasons that compel this smart woman to stay and will root for her

to overcome, setting up a great ending. Stretching what is possible for a reader to imagine is core to many books,

the trick being never to exceed readers' expectations of logical consistency. Authors retain full freedom to craft any

possible world. If some happens that is illogical, you just need to explain it. If a ball rolls uphill, make sure your

characters are on a plant somewhere with different physics.

 4. Ignorance of the facts. I always loved that part in the Lion King trailer where the leaf-cutter ants walk across the branch.

The fact that lions live in Africa and leaf-cutter ants are endemic to the Americas, doesn't bother most people. More serious

lapses do. Serious conflicts with common knowledge facts are almost never seen in mainstream books or movies or they would

garner ridicule. Lack of attention to historical or social context can especially be frustrating to people who know it better than the

author. Being knowledgeable about the world you are depicting is essential because it speaks to your authority,

a key aspect of allowing readers to suspend disbelief. If Harry is a rooster you really shouldn't have him

lay eggs to heighten the humour when he gets scared by Lola the Lion. Factual issues can be fixed if you take time:

drop the eggs or make Harry a Henrietta. The only times a true re-think is triggered is when a key part of the

plot rests on a false assumption. Then you get a deeper problem. Luckily, much good fiction rests on twisting,

stretching and reimagining the truth. 

5. Extraneous or repetitive material. If readers have plunged into your story, they want you to stay on track.

Tangential or completely irrelevant material will slow down the story at best and completely frustrate

the reader to the point of putting the book down at worst. A subclass of extraneous material is repetitious

text (words, sentences or passages). Repetition occurs in the process of writing, and for many legitimate

reasons. Leaving it in for readers to stumble over is one of the worst possible writing transgressions. Readers

are smart and they only need to read something once and get it. If you restate something, elaborate upon it

to give new information and you are safer that it will be received with increasing curiosity. Intentional

repetition signals importance and can be an incredibly powerful tool to guide your reader where you want

them to go. Themes that emerge over the course of a book duly explore and core to the plot

are often the one highlight features of a great book.

 6. Confusing material. Confusion is never intentional but most often results from the author not having

clearly described something.  Perhaps enough time was not taken because of the complexity of the mood,

scene, feeling or description of a physical object or process. Often writers are completely surprised to be told

when a point in the story clear. They experience it so clearly in their minds, but likely they have more background

knowledge. Experienced writers will recognise the problem, smile and say something like, "yeah, I had trouble with

that". Readers often will often fill in the details you don't tell them, and it could take them in a direction you never

expected.  

7. Flat material. How to describe flat material except that everyone knows flat when they read it? This is like a bin for all

writing that doesn't fit into any of these other categories but is just obviously lacking in its ability to fire up and hold attention.

It is flat because it flags no emotions in the reader, doesn't advance the plot and feels different than great parts. As such, it

really serves no purpose.

8. Lack of novelty. All writers try to avoid cliches at all costs. It is rare to see downright plagiarism, but readers

very sensitive to whether a book feels novel or whether it rehashes too- familiar ground. If they get the sense they have

read it before, chances are they will move onto something else. While the rule holds that great books lack this kind of

chaff, the reverse does not hold. Producing a book without any of these weaknesses still does not guarantee it will be great.

It just gives it a better chance. When the ratio is as high in favour of great as it can be, the book is ready to be birthed.