Tuesday, January 15, 2008

weekly writing coach: ruled lines

If you've got a writing skill you want to improve or master, set some rules --ones that you develop and control -- and use them to guide your writing so that you're forced to practice the skill in question. We recommend at least a week of self-enforced practice in a variety of formats (or just one, if that's your focus), but you may want to practice for a longer period. Try coming up with constraints that will help you to your goal, such as:
- Omitting a favored weakness: no passive verbs under any circumstances, or no adverbs.
- Adding a style point you need to develop: using at least one analogy to make a technical point understandable, for example.
- Enforcing a form for sentences or paragraphs: at least two very short sentences in every paragraph, if your sentences all run long, or at least two very short paragraphs in each piece. By "very short," we mean one- to three-word sentences and one- to two-sentence paragraphs. Very short, indeed.
- Ruling in variation: news release leads that never repeat the opening-line style of the previous releases, letters with every concluding paragraph unique, different styles of quotes or outtakes.
This is a great technique for focusing intently on one area that needs correction. Hint: Let your editor know what you're doing, so she can keep an eye out for your progress.

No comments: