Getting to the point about good writing

Opinion: Columns

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Print

By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

I'm taking this opportunity to teach a remote writing class. First of all, what's the hardest thing about writing? Finding topics? Yes, it's better to write about something we care about. But what's the most difficult thing? No one? It's getting started. Why is starting so hard? Because we have a voice inside our head that says our writing is bad. That our sentences are stupid. You know how you have a really great idea but as soon as you start writing it down, it doesn't come close to what you were thinking. So the first step to writing is to turn off that voice that tells us our writing is bad.

To make our writing better we have to think of writing as music. Now what are the two elements of music? What's that? Yes, music has a beat or rhythm. So how do we create rhythm with our writing? Nobody? Who said punctuation? Well, you're on the right track. We create rhythm by varying the length of our sentences. If all of our sentences are the same length, it's boring. What we need are long sentences, short sentences and medium sentences. We don't want run-on sentences that have "and, and, and." We break those down into shorter sentences. Two- or three-word sentences can be very effective.

Now what's the other element of music? What's that — the notes? Right, the other element of music is melody. How do we create melody with our writing? We create melody with alliteration. We repeat consonant sounds like, "the tops of the tall trees." Or, we can repeat vowel sounds, "How now, brown cow?"

So when we're choosing which word to use, we try to use words that have similar consonant sounds, or vowel sounds to the other words in the sentence. By varying the length of our sentences and using alliteration, we make music with our writing.

Writing is also Jenga. We build our sentences and then take out unnecessary words, so that our sentence is still standing but with no extra words. Nothing will improve our writing more than eliminating unnecessary words. This includes phrases like, "I started to, I was thinking of, I was going to." These are word-wasters. Just get to the point. Don't start to climb the mountain. Just climb.

Our assignment for next week is to write a five-paragraph sentence about ourselves. The format for the essay is called SHAPE. S is for special gifts we have. Maybe we're good listeners, or we're loyal, or we have the gift of hospitality. H is for hobbies and passions. A is for abilities. Are we savvy with computers? Are we good at basketball? P is for personality. Are we shy introverts, or are we outgoing extroverts? Finally, E is for experiences. What experiences helped us grow as a person? So write a paragraph for each of these character traits.

The hardest part will be connecting our paragraphs. We need transitions that lead from one paragraph to the next. Coming up with transitions is difficult. If we have to, we can always use, "Speaking of" or a transition like that. Email your SHAPE essay to me by next week. Don't send them at the last minute. I don't want to correct a tsunami of essays right before our next class.

Speaking of which, did you all get your haikus back? I don't usually take points off of poems but some of you didn't have the correct number of syllables. I realize this isn't math class but remember: three lines, seventeen syllables, 5-7-5. OK, I'll see you all next week.

Love the Review?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Forest Park Review and ForestParkReview.com. We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Community Guide 2019 - 2020

To view the full print edition of the Forest Park Review 2019 - 2020 Community Guide, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Forest Park.


            
SubscribeClassified
MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Latest Comments