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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

1.2 Writing

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Writing (Update: 20 May 2018)
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For most of us, writing does not come easily
 Magnifying glass improves the efficiency of editing
use size-14 Century bold font
A major motivation to write
concept of Amateurism in writing. 
Factors in Success to popularize a book: 
End Note on writing style 
Writing by Dictation 

For most of us, writing does not come easily because we do not, on first try, choose the right words. My first draft is confused and poor sounding, and as an unskilled writer I need much rewriting. Computers have given us the word processor and added Internet access to quickly get facts, spelling, grammar and meaning, and have made rewriting efficient, effective and time saving for hackers like I. 
   Once you make a draft, repeatedly review your text to delete what is repetitious or not needed, to correct error of fact, to remove excessively fancy language, and to further make your text easier for the less educated or non native reader. I benefit much from being aware I have readers for whom English is not native. It makes me try to write less words, clearer and simpler. One wants to keep an individual style and use elegant or poetic words or phrases when needed, but do not try it merely to impress.
   Magnifying glass improves the efficiency of editing. It is like subjecting your writing to microscope - you pick up error normally missed.
   One needs something useful to write. That gets to content, aim and imagination. In my case, I wish to leave to the future my idea of living efficiently and happily so I wrote (and am still writing) the Slim Novels accessed through http://adventuresofkimi.blogspot.com. For my advice on good health and long life, I wrote Physician’s Notebooks in http://physiciansnotebook.blogspot.com.
   Do your typing using computer graphics, and internet pictures and cover design. I use size-14 Century bold font (You are reading in it now; but perhaps you have enlarged the size, which is a little different from the font that takes spacing into consideration as well as size of letters, to make it easier for you to view) for main text. The size-14 is the largest you can use without too widely spaced lines, and is easily read by persons with aging vision. Keep your books slim. Because the thicker book is apt to elicit an "Oh! Too much reading!, the slim book psychologically, on viewing, keeps a potential reader's interest better than a thick book. If you need to write a huge tome, break it up into many slim books.

A major motivation to write is to make money and get admirers. For a few it happens but many unpublished writers waste time and money on vanity and vague hopes. The literary agent today charges too much for merely receiving a manuscript. And most of the time she or he will not even try to find a publisher because the market for unpublished writers is glutted with too much material. It is OK to use fame and money to energize your starting a book, but, once you have started, continually up-edit to perfect your writing. Develop a readership via an internet blog like www.blogger.com. If your book has commercial value, you will get readers.
   It is important at some point in writing a book for its writer to decide on its worth to society, its value as entertainment, and its potential for commercial success. If any one of these seems valid, keep improving your book and keep pitching. 
Here I want to comment on my concept of Amateurism in writing. Too many authors take their being a writer much too seriously, ie, calling oneself, for example, an "artist", a term which ought to be reserved only for someone who paints well. One can be an amateur at a particular activity, do it uncommonly well and not need to flatter oneself by terms like "artist" or "writer"; for example, click next on the URL--
  --for the following, brief film on the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950, William Faulkner. It is an interesting film to watch but also notice right at the beginning that the great writer starts of by referring to himself as "a farmer, who also writes" by which I take him to mean the concept that I have given for an Amateur: someone who does a thing uncommonly well but does not value his or her taking money for it.

Factors in Success to popularize a book. 
 a) Writing talent, by which I mean the ability to edit in one's head and to put together words to fascinate a reader; and to make a good story or narrative. Talent is not usually something one is born with although circumstances of birth may help (cf. W. Somerset Maugham, Edith Wharton; their European continental upbringing); it is learned, sometimes by hard study, daily writing and observing other writers' good styles. 
  b) Content and imagination, which relates to the subject(s) of a book. Certain content appeals to a reader's instinct for survival, or addresses his or her anxieties or it promises the reader big rewards. You should keep aware of your book's appeal to readers. An appeal of content may over-ride the reader's dis-incentive from its poor writing.
 c) The power of hype, persuasion and advertisement is a factor that can override factors of content and writing talent. For example, O.J. Simpson's writing How I Killed My Wife and Got Away Free would have been an automatic best seller not because of O.J.'s (or his ghost's) writing talent but simply because of his appearance on the TV news. Name recognition, eg, "Meghan Markle", is important and even in the absence of fame you may get it by getting on a website that gives worldwide exposure.

End Note on writing style, syntax (word order), grammar, and orthography (the use of punctuation marks). Of course, good sources exist: two books, E.B. White's Elements of Style or Donald Hall's Writing Well, ought to be read at leisure purely for the pleasure of reading the good style. Here I try to give a few ideas that new writers in English, especially non-native, may use to make their writing clearer and more compelling especially to those readers who have less education or for whom written English is not a first language.
Writing style by which I mean the feeling your writing should give to a reader is best done in what I call a friendly, informative way, which means paying attention in a reader-friendly way. For example, if you use a foreign language quote or a rarely understood slang expression be sure in footnote or brackets to include the English meaning. And neither be overly formal nor too informal, which means no use of slangy or foreshortened or show-off words, unless in context, but also relating to the reader by the not too frequent use of "You", again in context. 
 Grammar and spelling  should be perfect; it means using computer correction but also good knowledge based either on birth in the language or, for non-native writers in English, on previous intense study in writing the language. Do not experiment with word shortcuts or slang; it distracts the reader from his or her main attention which ought to be meaning. Above all strive for clarity and simplicity (in words and syntax).  Rewriting is an absolute must and never satisfied.
A few words on the use of commas. Always keep in mind the one rule that you should never ignore: the comma (or other orthography) should never cause confusion or confuse meaning. It's purpose should be to improve clarity - example, the comma is well used to separate the grammar function of words without which, if not separated, confusion may arise. Sometimes we may need to use a comma because it is strongly customary. (After an "if" clause) and lack of its use may prove a distraction even though it is not really necessary for improving clarity.
Unless you are a Nobel prize writer like William Faulkner, avoid long, complex sentences. When you see you have written one, in rewriting, break it up into smaller, simpler sentences that express each idea of the complex sentence. And edit out words that really do not add anything to what you wish to express as an idea; words like "very", "much" and the like, unless of course they are truly needed for exaggerated emphasis.
Writing by Dictation:  Most persons start off writing with pencil/pen and paper and then typing/computer. I did that for years then, one day recently, I got to write by dictations. What a difference!  Both have good points and I do not mean to hype dictation; however, the big benefit of dictation is, it gives you more time to think about the content and method of your writing. When you write directly off your hand or computer, your mind and body are so occupied by the direct action of the writing that you do not usually consider other aspects. But when you dictate, you become also a more slow-motion observer of an act of writing that happens to be your own, and hence a better critic and editor. I find I add alternative points of view, modify extremes of my prose and see errors better. Perhaps writing directly allows one to express high emotion better than by dictation. In a sense, writing  by  dictation combines writing by hand with editing your first draft, but taking the editing alone, of course, it lacks the original inspiration of spontaneous writing. In any case, dictation is very useful if you can get it.

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