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How to Write with Meaning

Updated on April 12, 2013

Quotes on Writing Well

Whether you're writing a school paper, a letter to mom, a Squidoo lens, or a novel, it's important that you know how to write with meaning.

By writing with meaning, I simply mean that your writing, in almost all cases, should tell a story and be written from the heart. Let a little of yourself out to drive home a point, unless of course you're Sargent Joe Friday. In that case, you want to deliver "Just the facts, ma'am."

If you're describing a sign, don't just write "There was a funny sign." Get in there and describe the Ham Bone Bar and Grill. Make the reader feel like they were there.

The following quotes by writers on how to write well and with meaning will drive home the point better than I can. Carry on.

Photo Credit: Peggy Hazelwood

Anne Lamott Quote

"Writing taught my father to pay attention;

my father in turn taught other people to pay attention

and then to write down their thoughts and observations."

~ Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott - Probably the Best Down-to-Earth Book on Writing

Anne Lamott is a character. She writes like she's speaking to you--just you. She's wise and funny and can write like nobody's business.

Anne Lamott has also written novels and non-fiction books that entertain; her writing style is like no one else's.

Nick Hornby Quote

"Here are the facts you need for The Terminator:

in the future, supercomputer robots want to control the earth and destroy the human race. The only hope we have in the year 2029 is the leader of the resistance. So the robots send Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is the Terminator, back in time to kill the leader of the resistance before he has ever been born.

That's pretty much it. ... Did you enjoy those facts? No. Of course you didn't, because you felt nothing."

~Nick Hornby in Slam

Slam by Nick Hornby - A Young Adult Novel Just About Anyone Can Enjoy

The quote shown above is from the novel Slam by Nick Hornby. The narrator is describing the story he's told us so far, which are just the facts. But, the facts don't tell the entire story, do they?

He continued by writing "I'm just saying that if you stick to the facts, then the whole point of a story has disappeared."

So true!

British author Nick Hornby also wrote About a Boy, High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, and lots of other great books.

Noah Lukeman Quote

"Thus, despite its title, this book is not

just about the first five pages of

your manuscript; rather, it assumes that by

scrutinizing a few pages closely enough--

particularly the first few--you can make

a determination for the whole."

~ Noah Lukeman in The First Five Pages, A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection File

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman - Write Well in the Beginning and All the Way to the End of Your Piece

This book helped me tighten my writing so I wasn't quite as guilty of leaving in extraneous BS.

Write with Meaning and Grab Them!

But Don't Tell All, Please

Writing with meaning involves opening up and sharing a bit about yourself to make a point. If you don't personally have experience with what you're writing, find out how it affected other people and write about that.

But please, don't spill your guts. Unless you're prepared for what that brings, of course.

Some events are too personal to share. Family members might be involved, so ask yourself these questions:

~ Is it your story to tell? If not, don't write it (or at least change the names).

~ Do you really have their permission or blessing to share this stuff?

~ Do you want the whole world to know your business? Maybe. Probably not.

But on a more positive note, the feeling you have about those personal events can be harnessed.

Share the feeling.

Let your readers in on the meat of the story but putting them there. Use feeling and meaning in your writing.

More Great Books By These Great Authors - and a Movie

A Long Way Down
A Long Way Down
Nick Hornby handles the topic of suicide (four would-be suicides) with tender loving care in A Long Way Down.
An Education [Blu-ray]
An Education [Blu-ray]
Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay for the movie An Education.
Hard Laughter
Hard Laughter
Hard Laughter is Anne Lamot'is first (and in my opinion best) novel. It's funny and straight from the heart.
Talk Before Sleep: A Novel
Talk Before Sleep: A Novel
Elizabeth Berg's novels speak to women (and men). Talk Before Sleep was inspired by a friend of Berg's who died.

Elizabeth Berg Quote

"My partner listened quietly, as he always does when I tell him all the details of the things I've seen.

He knows I have a need to tell stories.

But whenever I say them out loud, there is something missing for me. To really tell a story, I need to write it.

It's then that I understand what it is that I'm really trying to say. I find the deeper meaning--

and the deeper satisfaction."

~ Elizabeth Berg in Escaping Into the Open

Escaping Into the Open, The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg - A Good Book for Unleashing Creativity

I adore Elizabeth Berg's novels, but I truly love this writing book. She is like a good friend--who knows of what she writes--giving sound advice (and recipes!) on improving your writing.

Journals and Pens - for Taking Notes, Writing, and Scribbling Your Thoughts

The tangible act of writing with pen and paper helps make thoughts real. Start carrying a journal and special pen for ideas that come to you throughout the day.


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