By: Marilyn L. Davis
The First Challenge:
Overcoming Your Fears about Writing
“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
“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
I’m always amazed by how each writer takes the same words and creates an entirely different story. Some educate, others entertain, and a few, well, they enchant. Which category is authentic for you?
How Do You Say It?
I’ve always believed that how someone says something is just as important as what they are saying. That’s because each reader will 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, always asking Why and How.” ― James J. Kilpatrick
Too Many – Too Few Words?
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?
“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
- The readers might not understand what we mean.
- What if the writing seems ill-informed or boring?
- The words might not be ‘important’ enough for some readers.
- We sometimes elaborate when it’s not necessary at all.
The Beauty of Plain Language
Plain language is accurate and often more precise, which means that your readers won’t struggle trying to understand it. This means that your readers find what they need to use or meets their needs in the most effective manner possible.
Language that is plain to one set of readers may not be plain to others. Material is in plain language if your audience can:
So, what do great writers have to say about plain language? These quotes and sage advice may help or inspire you to participate in a writing 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 a plain, vigorous language, one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly, one cannot be politically orthodox.” ― George Orwell, Essays
Use Powerful Words
Smart copywriters use powerful words to trigger a psychological or emotional response. They’re called “power words” because they are so persuasive that people simply can’t resist being influenced by them, but they aren’t just for marketers. Everyday writers need to connect emotionally with their readers, also, so start using power words instead of dull or words that don’t grab your readers attention.
- “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
- “Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read, and you’re pierced.” ― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
- “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
- “You string some letters together, and you make a word. You string some words together, and you make a sentence, then a paragraph, then a chapter. Words have power.” ― Chloe Neill, Firespell
- “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
- “Words have weight.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Why Do We Even Write the Words?
There are as many reasons for writing as people writing. Each of us chooses to write because it satisfies some inner desire, whether that’s for fame, to have a voice in changing the world, refute an argument, support others, or reflect on our lives and learn from our mistakes. So what do great authors say about why we write?
- “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
- “I long ago abandoned myself to a blind lust for the written word. Literature is my sandbox. In it, I play, build my forts and castles, spend glorious time.” ― Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman
- “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… 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
How and Why Do Writers Improve?
Writing and publishing are intimidating as it exposes us. That’s the downside to seeing our words in print.
With effort, the upside is that our writing can improve, and we’re more likely to gain followers, likes, and shares. I know you want to be a better writer as you’ve made it this far in the post. So what do better writers have to say about improving?
- “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
- “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. Edits make you grow, and if you aren’t growing as a writer, you are dead.” ― Inez Kelley
- “Let grammar, punctuation, and spelling into your life! Even the most energetic and wonderful mess has to be turned into sentences.” ― Terry Pratchett
- “Unless you challenge yourself, you cannot grow. ― Amit Ray, Yoga The Science of Well-Being
The Second Challenge:
Submitting Your Words
That’s a lot of advice, experience, and knowledge of words. The challenge is to submit your best words to Two Drops of Ink and entertain, educate, or even enchant the readers.