By: Marilyn L. Davis
“If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent, whatever that is. Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me if I do? You’re a human being, with a unique story to tell, and you have every right. If you speak with passion, many of us will listen. We need stories to live, all of us. We live by stories. Yours enlarges the circle.” ― Richard Rhodes
Words: The Writer’s Resource
I’m always amazed how each writer takes the same words and creates a completely different story. Some educate, others entertain and a few, well they enchant. Which category is authentic for you?
This challenge is to write about how you value, use, and create your finished piece using our common denominator – words.
I’ve always believed that how something is said is just as important as what is said, for each reader is going to relate to one writer over another even for the same topics.
And in case you’ve forgotten what it means to be a writer, or are afraid to submit, reflect on the words of great, published, and playful writers. See if you don’t qualify for the title of writer, and if you find that you do, then submit to Two Drops of Ink.
“Five common traits of good writers: (1) They have something to say. (2) They read widely and have done so since childhood. (3) They possess what Isaac Asimov calls a “capacity for clear thought,” able to go from point to point in an orderly sequence, an A to Z approach. (4) They’re geniuses at putting their emotions into words. (5) They possess an insatiable curiosity, constantly asking Why and How.” ― James J. Kilpatrick
Little – Too Much – Just Right
“Words could betray you if you chose the wrong ones, or mean less if you used too many. The jokes could be grandly miscalculated, or stories deemed boring, and I’d learned early on that my sense of humor and ideas about what sorts of things were fascinating didn’t exactly overlap with my friends’.” ― Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything
I recently wrote about not understanding something in the written directions. So, writers have to use correct, clear, and concise words to convey their intent. However, there are some writers who over-explain. Why do we tend to do that?
- Fear of being misunderstood
- Fear of appearing ignorant about our subject
- Fear of speaking plainly
- Fear of boring our readers
The Beauty of Plain Language
So, what do great writers have to say about words? These quotes and sage advice may help or inspire you with this challenge.
“I like to use simple words, but in a complicated way.” ― Carol Ann Duffy
“Nouns and verbs are the guts of the language. Beware of covering up with adjectives and adverbs.” ― A.B. Guthrie Jr.
“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words, and brief sentences. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them―then the rest will be valuable…” ― Mark Twain
“Works of imagination should be written in very plain language; the more purely imaginative they are, the more necessary it is to be plain.” ― Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“Political writing in our time consists almost entirely of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child’s Meccano set. To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly, one cannot be politically orthodox.” ― George Orwell, Essays
“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it until it begins to shine.” ― Emily Dickinson
“At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book—that string of confused, alien ciphers—shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader.” ― Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading
“A book is an arrangement of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numerals, and about eight punctuation marks and people can cast their eyes over these and envision the eruption of Mount Vesuvius or the Battle of Waterloo.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
“Words! What power they hold. Once they have rooted in your psyche, it is difficult to escape them. Words can shape the future of a child and destroy the existence of an adult. Words are powerful. Be careful how you use them because once you have pronounced them, you cannot remove the scar they leave behind.” ― Vashti Quiroz-Vega
Why Do We Write All Those Words?
“Sure it is an odd way to spend your life – sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper to give birth to what does not exist, except in your head. Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing? The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is: because you have to because you have no choice.” ― Paul Auster
“To write as if your life depended on it; to write across the chalkboard, putting up there in public the words you have dredged; sieved up in dreams, from behind screen memories, out of silence– words you have dreaded and needed to know you exist.” ― Adrienne Rich
“We have no time to waste on insignificant books, hollow books, books that are there to please… We want books that cost their authors a great deal, books where you can feel the years of work, the backache, the writer’s block, the author’s panic at the thought that he might be lost: his discouragement, his courage, his anguish, his stubbornness, the risk of failure that he has taken.” ― Laurence Cossé, A Novel Bookstore
“Why do writers write? Because it isn’t there.” ― Thomas Berger
“The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle. Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting the child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant re-arrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.” ― Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
“Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves – that’s the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives – experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time anyone else has been so caught up and so pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before. Then we learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three stories – each time in a new disguise – maybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald
How and Why Do Writers Improve?
“Dear Aspiring Writer, you are not ready. Stop. Put that finished story away and start another one. In a month, go back and look at the first story. RE-EDIT it.
Then send it to a person you respect in the field who will be hard on you. Pray for many many many red marks. Fix them. Then put it away for two weeks. Work on something else. Finally, edit one last time. Now you are ready to sub your first work. Criticism is hard to take at first. Trust me; I’ve been there. But learn to think of crit marks as a knife. Each one is designed to cut away the bad and leave a scar. Scars prove you’ve lived, learned and walked away a winner. Any writer who tells you they don’t need edits is lying. I don’t care if they have 100 books out.
Edits make you grow, and if you aren’t growing as a writer, you are dead.” ― Inez Kelley
“There’s a difference between writing for a living and writing for life. If you write for a living, you make enormous compromises. If you write for life, you’ll work hard; you’ll do what’s honest, not what pays” ― Toni Morrison
“Let grammar, punctuation, and spelling into your life! Even the most energetic and wonderful mess has to be turned into sentences.” ― Terry Pratchett
That’s a lot of advice, experience, and knowledge about words. The challenge is for you to submit your best words to Two Drops of Ink and entertain, educate or even enchant me.
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