We’ve met, face to face, at conferences all over the country. We’ve sat together in hotel lobbies. We’ve gathered over disposable cups of tea. And we’ve shared our stories.
And every time I hear your hearts and listen to your questions, I am reminded once again how we’re all really asking the same thing. The thousands of questions I receive about the craft of writing can be distilled into one simple question: Is my writing any good?
This is what every writer wants to know. So we read countless books and blogs about writing (although I hope more books than blogs), and when some questions are answered, more questions abound.
The questions are endless . . .
- What resources do you recommend?
- What writing exercises do you suggest?
- Should I be using Evernote?
- Where do I begin with grammar etiquette?
- Is it okay to start a sentence with “And” or “But”?
- Which person should I write in? First? Second? Third?
- Does the world really need another blogger/writer?
At conferences, we stay up late into the night, knowing there are never enough hours. I come home with my mind swimming full of conversations and wishing I would have had more time to explore these topics together.
So I thought I’d extend our conversations here—with a Q and A about the craft of writing.
I’m a teacher. Plain and simple. I love to learn, and I love to teach. I may have the letters M.A. after my name, but the only real letters that matter are the ones I write and the ones I live.
What resources do you suggest?
As I mentioned, I prefer books about the craft of writing over most blogs. Yet, here I am, writing a series of letters about the craft on a blog. The irony is not lost on me. So I’ll begin by directing all readers who long to be better writers to my list of favorite books about writing.
What writing exercises do you suggest?
There are many different writing exercises, but I would begin with these two:
One, devote a spiral notebook (or a Word doc on your computer) solely to writing words that no one will ever see but you. Write uninhibited and free. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation. Just pour your ideas onto the page. Just write.
Two, if you’re not blogging already, begin today. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I blogged for two years with a free blogging service. As important as it is to write words for your eyes only, it’s equally important to begin the process of writing for readers. Both types of writing are imperative to a writer’s development.
Should I be using Evernote?
I’m probably the wrong person to ask. I don’t use Evernote. I’m more old-school. I prefer pen and paper for brainstorming. When I’m ready, I’ll begin typing on my computer. I know some people who love Evernote, so it must be helpful in some way, but I suspect it has more to do with streamlining productivity than generating creativity.
Where do I begin with grammar etiquette?
When it comes to grammar, most people automatically think about punctuation marks and their proper placements within a sentence. For now, don’t worry about grammar rules. I’ll show you the necessary rules as we go, but what’s important to remember is the purpose of grammar.
The purpose of grammar isn’t to be correct, it’s to be clear. Proper punctuation helps us communicate our messages clearly. That’s all.
Every writer’s goal, first and foremost, should be clarity.
If you’re anxious, however, to improve your grammar, then I would suggest reading novels. Seriously. Not a nonfiction book. Not even a book about writing. To improve our grammar, we must immerse ourselves in a steady flow of good language. And that happens best in great novels. When we read great writing, we internalize more than we realize. And it always shows in our writing.
Is it okay to start a sentence with “And” or “But”?
If you’re in my college writing class, working on a formal essay, then I would say no. Academic papers require standard academic English.
If you’re writing a blog post, then I would say yes.
It’s like dressing for the occasion. If we’re dining in a five-star restaurant, then formal attire is required. But if we’re attending a backyard barbeque, then flipflops and shorts are appropriate.
Writers can choose the level of formality in their work, depending on their purpose and audience.
Which person should I write in? First? Second? Third?
Again, if you’re writing a college essay, you’ll likely be expected to write in the third person (i.e. one, it, he, she). This creates a detached voice that gives the impression of scientific objectivity. For example:
When one dines in a five-star restaurant,
one might consider wearing formal attire.
But if you’re writing a blog post, it feels dry and stilted for someone to write in the third person. Blogging is more personal, more relational. So bloggers write in the first person (i.e. I, me, we, us). For example:
When I attend a backyard barbeque, I wear flipflops.
The same is true for contractions too. I’m surprised at the number of blog posts I read that refuse to use contractions. That rule of “no contractions” is for your college essay, not your blog post.
Does the world really need another blogger/writer?
I’ve asked myself this question too. After all, millions of blogs are available at our fingertips. Does the world need another blog? Probably not.
But then again, can anyone tell your story? No. Only you can encourage another soul by sharing your particular life experiences.
I think another question answers this better: Does the writer really need to write?
If your answer to this question is yes, then you have your answer.
We are more than bloggers, we are #KingdomWriters, purposing to share words that encourage and inspire.
What questions do you have about writing?
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Q and A on the craft of writing! w/ #KingdomWriters <Tweet this!>
As writers, we all want to know the same thing: Is my writing any good? <Tweet this!>
The purpose of grammar isn’t to be correct, it’s to be clear. <Tweet this!>
We are more than bloggers, we are #Kingdom writers—purposing to share words that encourage and inspire. <Tweet this!>