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Writing Tips: Writing Art or Writing Craft - Which?

Updated on July 28, 2012

Write? Right!

Pair of Emperor Penguins - an intimate relationship
Pair of Emperor Penguins - an intimate relationship

Welcome to Writing Tips: Writing Art or Writing Craft - Which?

A few years back I wrote a book on Oral Storytelling in which I described Storytelling as both an art and a craft. In it, I referred to these twin facets of communication as being the two sides of the one coin; you cannot have one without the other. Yet, as I read through many of the Hubs on Hubpages it becomes clear to me that there are a good many writers who actually believe that their creativity alone will win the day, as far as acceptance of their writing prowess is concerned. There is this belief that ‘this splendid and unusual approach,’ or ‘my revolutionary way of thinking about this subject,’ will gain them the exposure and popularity that most of us crave. It probably won’t.

Writing Tips: To be read by thousands is every writer's wish

It would be no exaggeration to say that just about every person who places something upon Hubpages wants it to be popular, read by the thousands. It is the writer’s wish. I’ll admit to it. We all want that, so why not say so. How do we get it? We need credibility. How do we get that? We need a subject people want to read about. And how do we get that? We need to be able to write in such a way that the message is all there is. We don’t want to have our reader’s attention drawn to our spelling errors, our punctuation bloopers and our goofs in grammatical composition. So this brings in something ignored by, oh, so many: the craft of writing.

What do I mean by craft? Why is it so important? I’d like to indicate what I mean by way of analogy.

Writing Art : Writing Craft - You need to be professional as any professional.

Let us suppose that you hired an architect to design a home for you. You’d expect that architect to know his or her job. You’d expect them to be a professional; not only creative but knowledgeable. You’d be pretty annoyed if they said, “Well, sir, I have this wonderful idea for your home on your block of land. It’s my own creation. Here is a picture of it.”

“Wonderful, “ you reply. But the architect continues. “This is the idea; this is the creative side, and I think you’ll agree it’s really good. I’ve got the materials picked out in my mind but I’m sure how much to order or how I’ll go about the costing. Oh, and I’m not familiar with the lighting or electrical side of things. The ground slope is a worry, too.”

Writing Tips: Writing Art or Writing Craft

Pair of Royal Penguins - Is this love?
Pair of Royal Penguins - Is this love?

It's no good knowing how to do only half the job

Well! Here’s a so-called professional person, an expert in his or her field who does not know the other half of their profession. Material costs. How to calculate areas. Drainage. The fundamentals about, say, daylight and shade and whether the place is likely to flood. The other half of their job!

Or you go to a car dealer to purchase a new car. You’re told that this is their latest model. It has power-steering, seven air-bags, a built-in GPS and a video screen that can be viewed to see no one is directly behind the car. Oh, and you can get it in any one of nine colours. You ask the dealer, what the power of the car is and they don’t know. You ask them about the engine’s compression ratio. They don’t know. You ask them if it’s liable to give more miles to the gallon than the clunker you’re now driving and by roughly how much. Sorry, don’t know.

You expect them to know.

Your lack of writing skill must not impinge on the message

It is the same when a reader reads what you have written. They expect to read what you have written without being put off by your lack of knowledge of writing composition. You have to know what a sentence is. You have to know where a paragraph begins and ends. Sure, if you’re really expert you can occasionally deliberately flout the rules of grammatical composition for effect. But only occasionally. And also very diligently, so as not to bring that to the attention of the reader.

Your verbal tools of thought are very much part of writing craft.

You also need to know some of the subtleties of writing: where to use short, punchy sentences, where to use long rambling sentences. A sentence can be very short: He ran. Or very long: They came over the long winding dirt trail that traversed the high ridges of the mountain to gaze down on a panorama of absolute beauty: the gentle, rolling green tall-grass-covered slopes, the fir trees swaying with gentle grace in a westerly These are all part of the craft of writing. Word; the words you use, your tools of verbal thought, are all part of the craft of writing. Moreover, the more words you know and can bring forward into your mind as you write, the more precise and accurate is the message you bring to the reader’s mind.

Writing Tips: Writing Art or Writing Craft - Which?

Pairs of Gentoo Penguins. One complements the other
Pairs of Gentoo Penguins. One complements the other

You need to master the subtleties of sentence length

There are, however, some exceptions to this last. If you ‘parade’ your knowledge of words simply for the sake of it, a discerning reader will soon become aware of it. A less discerning one will simply become bored by their inability to comprehend what you mean; the words will be too uncommon and quite likely unknown to him or her. So you need the right types of words in your writer’s vocabulary.

So, in the development of craft you not only have to become a master of the subtleties of sentence length, but in that of word choice. On top of that, are the basics already mentioned: grammatical composition, punctuation, spelling. The craft of writing comes by dint of experience. That experience is picked up by both good reading, that is reading of works by others who write well, and by writing. And in the latter, being able to critically self-evaluate.

Become objective enough to be able to critique your own work

This last is not something most beginners are willing to consider. If we wrote it it must be good. We know what we mean. It came from the heart. It was our idea. No one else has anything like what I’m saying here, etc., so, yes, it must be good- terrific, in fact.

Generally, it isn’t. I can recall many years ago reading something by a world-famous author to the effect that, “A writer doesn’t even develop a personal and distinct style until he or she has written half-a-million words.” I concur. It does take a long time. It takes a long time to add to one’s natural literary creativity the necessary craftsmanship which needs to accompany it, if we are to write at our very best.

I hope you gained something from Writing Tips: Writing Art or Writing Craft - Which?

Keep smiling...and keep writing.



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  • sofs profile image

    sofs 7 years ago

    Good!! I'm happy that I asked the question which brought me to this hub. I couldn't agree with you more. Writing is also an art and that means one can keeping chiselling away until they get where they want to.

    Thanx once again for sharing this.

  • lmmartin profile image

    lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

    Hi Tom -- couldn't agree with you more. The idea that craft plays an unimportant role in writing drives me to distraction. Would a lawyer argue from passion with not knowledge of the law? Would an architect build a house based on esoteric design with no knowledge of construction?

    Why then do so many call themselves writers with no knowledge of the tools of their trade? And as an editor, I see this all the time.

    Good hub, and one I hope all aspiring writers read. Lynda

  • profile image

    Surabhi Kaura 7 years ago

    I don't have words. Its just awesome!

  • profile image

    John Moxon 7 years ago

    Good stuff, Tom. Would you mind my using it for my Digital Photo Story Classes?

  • Tusitala Tom profile image

    Tom Ware 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Wow! That was quick. I just posted it. I'm liking this sort of thing more and more.

  • Sky321 profile image

    Sky321 7 years ago from Canada

    I like this hub. It makes me feel like writing more.