The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Two
Thank You so Much, My Friends
You know, it really is pretty remarkable. I’ve been doing this series for over one-hundred weeks and if my math is correct, we are very close to two years…and there are many of you who have read and commented on every single one of these, and I find that unbelievable.
Thank you is not enough, but it’s all I have. If you’re ever in Olympia, Washington, I expect you to stop by our little urban farm and I’ll fix you lunch.
Enough of the mushy stuff. Let’s get to it!
From Faith: “Hey, being you were a school teacher, what can you offer to help prepare young minds to appreciate writing, now and for the rest of their lives?”
Faith, that’s a question I’ve answered at many parent/teacher conferences.
My first word of advice is to read. Kids need to read to appreciate writing. I don’t care if they read nothing but comic books; they need to read.
My second piece of advice is that writing should be fun. Never force a child to write. Good writing is a passion that wells from the depths of a writer’s soul, and that can’t be coerced. If you are a parent, expose your child to beautiful writing, and I’m not talking about Shakespeare or Browning….instead, show them the wonders of Dr. Seuss…..move them up the ladder to Silverstein…..the classics are all well and good, but a young child can never appreciate them.
Thirdly, take a would-be writer out in nature and let them learn to listen to their senses…..what does that mountain look like? What does that spring feel like? What do those flowers smell like? Writing is a sharing of senses and emotions.
Fourth, allow your child to toss away all the rules and simply write. They will be taught grammar in school, but grammar is just a minor part of writing. I’m a huge believer in free-form writing. Give that kid a pen and turn them loose with no rules to bind them.
And I’ve rambled on enough. Thanks for the question, Faith!
Searching for Helpful Writing Websites
From Tarunponders: “Another question which emerges out of the above which probably you can answer in 102 is - Are their websites where one can get his writing skills tested/assessed by experts. I am sure HP is also a great place to hone up ones skills as one is surrounded by literary prowess all around but are their others?”
Tarunponders, there are many such websites. Just about any writer forum will provide expert feedback as long as you are willing to do the same for the other writers in that forum. Here are a few:
Just do a Google search for “writers forum” and you’ll find more….or….start your own, in your hometown, or online….it’s easy to do and you might prefer having some say in the way your forum is operated.
From Beth: “Why do you suppose so many would-be writers throw in the towel and give up?”
I don’t even know where to start with this question, Beth. It seems to me the reasons for quitting are as numerous as the number of would-be writers out there.
Discouragement? Lack of support? Not being realistic in goals? Not really understanding what it takes to be a writer? Not having the skill to be a writer? A changing literary scene and atmosphere?Not having the time to be a writer? Low self-esteem? No marketing skills? All of these are valid reasons and I’m sure there are some reading this right now who are nodding their heads because one of those reasons applies to them.
I used to think it was sad that people gave up….now I just figure it’s the natural order of things, like Darwinism for writers!
From AK: “I was reading a novel the other day, and the writer shattered just about every grammatical rule I’ve ever learned, but it was so effective I couldn’t put the book down. What do you say about that? Deliberately breaking rules?”
I say if you are writing fiction then you’re nutso if you don’t break a few rules.
How’s that for clear?
Listen, answer this question: what is the opposite of creativity?
If you answered structure then you win an imaginary stuffed animal and thanks for playing our game. LOL
And structure comes from a set of rules.
Ergo, the exact opposite of creativity is a set of established rules.
Creative writers….writers of novels and short stories and poetry….they should break the rules. Do I think all writers should go out there and deliberately misspell every word? Of course not, but I do think the English language gives us wonderful tools to experiment with so we can find out own voice and rhythm, and as writers we would be foolish not to use those tools.
At one time or another, during my teaching career, I taught non-fiction writing and creative writing. I would grade grammar for the non-fiction. I would never grade grammar for fiction. They are two different ponies in parallel races and that, my friends, was a metaphor.
From Betsy: “What do you think of the use of vulgar language in writing? Is it really necessary for some writers to use cuss words in every sentence? It seems to me that some writers use vulgar language for its shock value or because they are trying to mask the fact that they really aren’t that good at writing.”
Well Betsy, let nobody ever tell you that you don’t say what you mean. LOL
Writers of fiction are imitators and chroniclers of real life. I can’t get through a day without hearing someone cuss. It’s not that I hang out with vulgar people. I can go to the grocery store and I’ll hear someone cuss. I can walk down the street and I’ll hear ten cuss words.
So if I’m writing a novel, it seems to me to be a bit unrealistic if none of my characters say cuss words. I guess it’s possible, but it’s highly unlikely….unless you’re writing a science fiction about visitors from another planet who don’t know shit about shit.
And I agree with you, Betsy, that some writers use it too often. I don’t know their motivation in doing so, but there are times when it is overdone for sure, like watching a comic doing stand-up who says the “f” word every other word….what’s the point?
I’m no delicate flower. I can cuss like a sailor when the situation calls for it, but I only use cuss words in dialogue when I think it fits the character or is needed for emphasis, and I think that’s a decent guide for any writer to use.
And We Are Done for Another Week
Two more to go and we’ll have been doing this for two solid years. Like I said earlier, pretty remarkable!
I’m still working to perfect my podcasting talents.
And the newest “Billy the Kid Chronicles,” never before seen on HP, will be published this week….the title is “Home is a Dangerous Place” and it will be available through Amazon in paperback and Kindle.
Thanks to all and have a superb week!
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”