1. Moima
    Offline

    Moima Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2014
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    2

    Developing writing technique

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Moima, May 25, 2014.

    Hi,

    I'm not looking to cut corners but what is the best way to develop a good writing technique or writing skills? I feel like my writing is very basic. I guess it has a lot to do with vocabulary, but are there other areas I should improve? I'm interested in scientific writing, my background is in psychology and I there is a vast range of topics I could and would like to write about. It sounds great in my head, but as soon as I try to put it down on a paper, the text is very simple. I have been told that my writing is very straighforward and to the point, but sometimes I'd like to make it more entertaining. But it seems like I'm stuck in the 'straighforward' kind of writing and when I do try to spice it up a little, it sounds fake and stupid.

    I suppose I need to read more. But is there something I could do with the text that I read? How do you guys work on your technique?
     
  2. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,724
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    First, read the kind of work you'd like to write. Find some writers in your field whose work you admire, and study how they do what they do.

    Practice writing. Experiment a lot with sentence variety, tone (very formal? colloquial? humorous?), and structure until you find the voice you want to use. Be aware of your audience. Are you writing for the masses? For the "intelligent layman"? For high-school kids? For professionals in the field? It all changes the way you write.

    You're interested in writing scientific non-fiction. I'd suggest reading the essay collections of Lewis Thomas: The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher, etc. Thomas was not just a brilliant thinker, he had an exquisite prose style. His work won him three National Book Awards.
     
    peachalulu and Moima like this.
  3. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    If you're writing scientific texts/essays, don't you want your writing to be straightforward and to the point?
     
    peachalulu and Mckk like this.
  4. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Hmm, but if you're interested in scientific writing, then straight forward is exactly what you need. People who want to read scientific papers don't want entertaining writing - they don't care and probably can't tell lol. What they care about is the content and evidence, and *that* to them is entertaining. If you're looking to make your writing entertaining, then I think you might be in the wrong kind of writing. Entertaining writing belongs more in magazine articles, columns/opinion pieces, blogs and of course, fiction. The last thing a scientist or a student of science wants is frivolous fluff diluting the gem they've come for - eg. the science.

    As for technique - hmm, I'm not entirely sure lol. When you read, try and analyse what makes this piece good, don't be afraid to stop reading and dwell on a paragraph, a single sentence, even just a single word - why is it different? Why did it hook you? Why did it NOT hook you? And as for your own writing, edit a lot. The same sentence can be written in a million different ways - which way is better? Learn to listen to the rhythm of your sentences and paragraphs.

    Maybe read C.S. Lewis' non-fiction. He wrote many theological essays. The content isn't what you're after, but he's an eloquent man able to inject humor in the heaviest theological discussion, dissect a philosophical concept and actually make himself understood - that takes a lot of skill. On top of being actually easy to read. That man's gifted.

    But I don't know - be sure that what you want to achieve with your writing is actually appropriate for the kind of work you're producing. Nothing wrong with wanting your writing to be more entertaining, but that would have more value if it were used appropriately. For example, I would not seek to make my job covering letter "entertaining", and if I tried, it would come across as unprofessional and actually hurt my chances. On the other hand, since I'm writing genre fiction, my writing should certainly be entertaining and accessible. And yet still, if I wanted to write literary fiction, perhaps the accessibility of my writing would be less important compared to the depth of poetry in my prose (that's just my assumption, I don't write literary fiction so I don't know lol). You see, different aspects are appropriate for different kinds of writing.

    And last piece of advice - don't try too hard. Often that makes things worse lol. Just write what's natural to you - you can always edit it later.
     
  5. Moima
    Offline

    Moima Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2014
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    2
    Thank you!

    You are right, Thirdwind, scientific essays/papers need to be straightforward. And I *think* I'm doing OK there.

    However, there are also ample opportunities to write articles and columns, like Mckk said, and I think this is what I would like to do more in the future. I think, when it comes down to abstract ideas, it is important to present them in a way that makes them interesting and well understood. This is what has helped me in the past and this is what I would like to do in the future. Not just state a fact/theory/concept, but to make it interesting and relevant. This is where my to-the-point kind of writing lets me down, since I can very well describe and define something, but I don't know how to make it interesting for the reader.

    Mistrel, thank you, I'll do just that! I'll dissect an article and study what it is that makes it special (to me).

    I'll also look up all the books mentioned. One can never read enough books!

    I read something nice today: You can try to become a writer the hard way, i.e without actually doing any writing and just, you know, thinking about it a lot. Or you can do it though the application of the old-school discipline - by writing every day. That works. The other way is a bit like thinking you can learn how to play the piano by going to a lot of concerts. (Thomas Basbøll)
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2014
    minstrel and Mckk like this.
  6. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    @Moima - hehe learning the piano by going to a lot of concerts, that's a hilarious idea :D

    Well, another way of improving your own writing might be to go to the workshop in the forum and offer some critique on other people's work. That way you're actively looking for ways to improve something, for what works and what doesn't etc. I think there's a non-fiction/essay section? (I don't go to that section so I don't remember)

    That would also help you fulfill the forum requirements before you can post something up for critique. Stick around a little longer and when you've fulfilled the minimum requirements, post something in the workshop :)
     
  7. Moima
    Offline

    Moima Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2014
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    2
    I just don't think I know enough to be able to critique someone else's work! But I will check it out, thank you.
     
  8. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Oh never think that. If you can read, then you can have an opinion. That's all critique is anyway, an opinion, and from the more experienced, it's an educated opinion. If the writer disagrees with you, they simply won't make the changes you suggested :D But you definitely have something to offer, so I wouldn't belittle that. For example, if you're good at being straight forward, you might be excellent at pointing out clarity issues. Plenty of fiction suffers from clarity issues I'm sure, what with twists and foreshadowing and dropped hints and implied action and everything else in between!
     
    Moima likes this.

Share This Page