This post part of a series called “Don’t Do This” aimed at helping you avoid bad writing habits, identify and steer clear of the pitfalls of poor writing, and become the writer-communicator that people want to follow. (Because no one has arrived. And all of us can use platinum ideas, to be better at the craft of writing.)
It’s like a book online. Free. Bite sized, motivating, practical bits. You’ll like it because it’s all about what works, the how-to for an immediate increase in your writing effectiveness.
Get every word, catch the take-away to apply, and become a sharper writer, right now…
“drive safe” and reasons.
It’s wintertime in Michigan. That means instead of saying, Have a great day! with a saccharine lilt, we say, Drive safe, with sober sincerity.
Michigan winters bring dangerous roads. Especially with the 193-car pile up yesterday on I-94 that killed people — a horrific event on both sides of the highway involving 76 semis, 117 cars, and a truck full of exploding fireworks. The phrase, drive safe, echoes everywhere.
Here’s the truth: Powerful moments motivate us. The crash-crazy event is on everyone’s mind. The reverberating WHOA, THAT WAS AWFUL skitters across social media.
Think writing, now.
Here’s the truth: Powerful moments motivate even the smallest phrases on the page. Everything you write must have a reason, a motivation, and a core to why it’s there.
Because all quality, powerful, emotion-evoking and mind-changing words must exist for meaning’s sake. We simply cannot afford to use words for words’ sake. I know this sounds Duh! but we’re all guilty.
We’re in love with our own words. But we simply can’t be. You and I must Happily. Let. Go. No, I’m not going to burst into the Disney song, but I am going to say this:
For nonfiction writing,
the words you choose must
echo your key intentions.
For fiction writing,
the words you choose must
be saturated with
your characters’ motivations.
Think about it.
For anything nonfiction.
emails to blogs to books…
Your goal is to write the most dynamic — and, yes, succinct — piece, with words chosen to equal the diamond of your idea. Forget the frills, the fluff, the foo — we need clear, purpose-filled words. Unless the words drive the reader to your point, you have to let them go (cue music). Edit. A lot. (Keep asking yourself, Do I really need this?)
Wordsmith your ideas to get them to the bright, powerful meaning they deserve. Wordsmithing is a cool word, don’t you agree? Tell someone, I’m wordsmithing, and watch his or her face. Your wordsmithed ideas are the ones that burn onto the page — and into the reader’s heart.
For all forms of fiction.
short stories to screenplays to epics…
In every scene — every paragraph — your character’s motivation is at work. Her reasons surface in her words, her movements, her choices. If it’s not surely tied into her reasons, her internal drives, then rewrite. Edit. A lot.
Wordsmith your ideas to get your story to the enticing, powerful movement with meaning — burning onto the page and into the reader’s heart.
Don’t do this:
Don’t fall in love with your words. Be willing to toss words, lines, paragraphs, entire chapters with gusto.
Be flexible — even joyous — at slicing, tossing, and shifting. Expect to reform your page with everything you write. Rarely — if ever — will you get the diamond the first time. Pros take heavy-duty machetes to the page.
Don’t do this:
Don’t start writing without thinking deeply. As in jumping into an idea prematurely. He who fails to plan plans to fail. And he who swims in the idea pool with shallow waters doesn’t swim far.
Write out your motivation.
* In nonfiction writing, what response do you want the reader to have, after reading your work? You need a powerful phrase that nails the reader’s reason to read your work. In marketing terms, that’s your reader’s benefit. Have a driving benefit in mind before you write.
But how do you get to the on-fire benefit?
Here’s how: Before you start, write a guiding phrase that states WHY someone would read what you write. Then write the action that you want your reader to take, at the end of reading your piece. Use that guiding phrase in all that you write. Keep it in front of you. For every paragraph. Every word. Seriously. Everything you write must be tied into that phrase.
* In fiction writing, every living creature in your story must have a clear and guiding motivation. So before you start, write them down — what drives every person to feel what he or she feels, to do what he or she does. Use motivations to guide all that you write. A.L.L. Keep the motivation in front of you. For every page. Seriously. Everything that your character does must be tied into that motivation.
You know, I was supposed to be on I-94 yesterday. Yes, at that exact time, in the exact place where the 193-car pile-up happened. Because of the poor weather, I changed my plans. I took drive safe as a serious, action-inducing motivation — a motivation that changed my behavior. And, boy, am I’m glad that I did.
Find your motivations. Use them.
Oh. And drive safe. Please.
Life is precious.