Developing a skill invariably requires learning from others with more experience. Writing is no exception. Improving as a writer involves reading others’ work and—at least at first—emulating it. Put simply, emulating other authors helps you learn what works and what doesn’t.
“Hey, hang on,” you might say indignantly, “are you asking me to copy other writers?”
I know why you may feel that way. Few things are more upsetting to a writer than to be accused of plagiarism. Judging by discussions I’ve had with fellow authors, it probably hurts less to have your own work plagiarized than to be wrongfully accused of plagiarism yourself. So, why am I suggesting that you become a better writer by emulating others?
And so, here comes a giant flashing red light..
Plagiarism, imitation, and emulation are three entirely different concepts. Their meaning, motivation, and results have nothing to do with one another. Whereas one can lead you into muddy waters, both legally and ethically, another can make the difference between a competent author and a great author.Continue reading
Few of us enjoy working with someone over our head, constantly scrutinizing our every move. This is particularly true for creative endeavors, like writing. Broadly defined, a writing supervisor is a person who has a stake in the text someone else is writing, and as a result tries to direct the process.
Since writing is an inherently solitary activity—as a writer, you spend long stretches of time working alone in front of a screen, often remotely—a writing supervisor can’t physically supervise you the way one would a factory worker.
However, this also means that writing supervision can be more insidious. In other words, it’s easier to detect and defend against direct supervision; it’s far harder to do so against a subtle one.
This presents clear dangers to a writer. Put simply, you might end up losing control of your text, and nothing good ever comes out of that. But on the other hand, having a writing supervisor can also be an important asset if you know how to deal with it.Continue reading
Miners refuse to work after death.
Squad helps dog bite victim.
Iraqi head seeks arms.
As the article headline and the sentences above indicate, ambiguity in writing—a sentence that can have multiple meanings—can have a thoroughly humorous effect.
If you write comedy, or if you try to come up with a cheeky headline for your article, then ambiguity in writing is your friend. But ambiguity isn’t just about headlines and comedy.
To name a few examples, if you’re a blogger tackling a social issue, if you’re a journalist covering important events, or if you’re a nonfiction author preparing a book on climate change, you would want to avoid ambiguity in your writing. Inadvertent ambiguity can harm your text, by having a humorous effect that can be thoroughly destabilizing in an otherwise factual narrative.Continue reading
Writers are like ice cream: They come in different flavors. Some of us are plain vanilla, others are passion-fruit granita with creamy lime curd. Most of us try to find authorial enlightenment, which—like a karma of writing—promises nirvana once we go through enough hardships and lessons.
We are all different. You are special, just like everybody else. A catchy, tongue-in-cheek thing to say, and yet true in some esoteric way, as it can help you better understand yourself.
These are the qualities of this post as well.
The term karma of writing has a catchy ring to it. Just like everything that includes the words “karma,” “Zen,” or… “quantum,” it’s surrounded by a certain aura of mystique. To talk about the karma of writing almost sounds as if I were trying to sell a New Age book, doesn’t it?
Rest assured, I’m not. You see, this post is itself tongue-in-cheek. There is no actual karma of writing, and I’ve made up the seven types of authorial enlightenment, because seven is a satisfying number—would you have taken me seriously if I’d talked about the six or eight types of authorial enlightenment?
And yet, the post is true and it can help you better understand yourself. In particular, it can help you understand what kind of writer you are. Let’s get started!Continue reading