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Thursday, October 12, 2006


Two Secrets for Powerful Writing, plus links to secrets from other bloggers

This morning, Copyblogger Brian Clark said, “Bloggers can do anything they want. . . . Many bloggers are not writing news oriented blogs, at least in the journalistic tradition.”

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Brian, but this comment demands a qualification and response.

Perhaps bloggers can do anything they want. But if bloggers want to write well, they are going to make use of many many techniques from journalism. Good writing follows rules. Period.

Of course, there is some variation in the rules of each genre. Business writing and news stories and poetry and fiction and religious writing and narrative nonfiction are not exactly the same. But they are certainly the same species of communication–with only minor genetic differences.

Good writing is concise. It is clear. And good writing puts its meat upfront–even when the meat is on a big hook.

All activities have a creative element and a pedestrian element. All written works have the moment of creativity and the pedestrian transference of information.

All writing is pedestrian—at some point. When the writer puts his butt in the chair and starts typing words, relying on pedestrian rules of grammar and pedestrian rules of syntax and pedestrian structures of genre.

To put this another way, I used to tell my writing students, "I am not here only to entertain you. We'll have fun, sure. Writing is fun because work is fun." But every writing course is about learning the rules and conventions that others expect you to use when you communicate—whether it's poetry or creative writing or literary analysis or technical writing.

People don't like to talk about rules much in our country. We like individual freedom. We secretly admire the Republic of Texas whackos who hole up with rifles and shotguns and refuse to pay their taxes.

Fine, invent your own rules for poetry or writing or blogging—and see who bothers to read your work.

Here's the truest advice I know. Like most Truth is comes in the form of a paradox:
1. Know your audience. Give them what they expect. Give them what they want.
2. Know yourself. Be creative. And sylistic flair. Throw your audience a few surprises that bring life and joy to their drab view of the world.
For the record, here are three sites that have some good, creative, bits of occasionally pedestrian advice. (And none of those things are mutually exclusive.)
Ten Mistakes Writers Don't See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)
9 + 1 Things Every Reader Wants from a Writer
Good Blog Writing Style

So... concrete example... where in this paradox do you see Flannery fitting in?

Very nice post with some solid advice for me. My daughter is a freshman in high school and a budding writer and I plan to direct her to some of these points.

This link never made it to me. I just found it tonight on Ice Rocket. What a great article! It's well-written and I'm right with you -- especially about the "fun part." If you're not having fun, you're just not doing it right.

Thanks for thinking of me.
Liz Strauss
Successful Blog
Liz, thanks for the comment and the compliment. I'm certainly a fan of your blog. As for thinking of you--you have yourself to thank for that. I just go where the good stuff is!

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