Writing For Life #3: Keeping Your Writing Fresh and Memorable
The ART of writing
In today’s electronic society, writing is more important than ever.
If you’re already shaking your head in disagreement, take a moment to stop and consider the trillions of words being accessed all over the world at any given moment. How many and varied are the Web sites you have visited in the past month alone? Now think over the course of the past year – how many words have passed before your eyes only to fade into some “electronic ether” moments after you saw them on the screen?
Even given this deluge of information, it is possible to stand out from the crowd. Whether your goal is to write well for an online audience or to be published in something more tangible, there are ways to remain above the dreaded “ether”. With patience and practice, every word you compose will gain staying power; every composition you publish will resonate with your audience to such a degree as cannot be forgotten. Writing is a craft: it is also an art, as illustrated in the three key points below, which apply as readily to poetry as to prose:
Whenever and whatever we write for publication, we must consider our target audience. Have you just written your best poem ever? Submit it! – but be sure to find the correct market for your work, as a mismatch may result in a rejection. Write what means the most to you and then find where it belongs.
Have you ever noticed the different rhythms and patterns in everyday speech? Words create tapestries of sound, which create different impressions according to their use. An informal (or “casual”) composition is typically comprised of shorter sentences; it reads quickly and utilizes shorter words. A more formal work may contain sentences which seem a full paragraph in length; they often use very lengthy and difficult words. The rhythm of the composition is affected as a result: the shorter sentences have a faster rhythm, whereas the longer are felt to proceed more slowly (if not ponderously).
Emotional affect may also be heightened -- or lessened – by the rhythm of your work. Is your message happy, or funny? Use shorter sentences to quicken the pace of your work; describe the feeling in words that rush over the reader in a huge swell of joy or laughter. Are you telling a sad story? Take it a little more slowly; give the reader a little more time to internalize and deal with the emotional reactions inspired by your words.
At the risk of oversimplifying, I will move on to the next point and promise to come back to this point in another article. For now, consider the above as parallel with musical influence. Every syllable of every word is a note which contributes to the overall rhythm of the piece.
Every written composition has a “tone”. This is more qualitative, and therefore more difficult to define, but it is very readily felt by the reader according to the author’s intent. When an author considers the tone of their work, they are considering how they want the reader to feel in response to the composition in question.
For instance, a comedy sketch is very light-hearted. There are a variety of devices available for achieving this effect, of which rhythm is but one. In contrast, an academic essay must be more serious, with more attention to facts and details central to the main idea. The tone of a work is felt in its overall delivery, regardless of what devices or techniques are employed to achieve the end result. Think of “tone” in writing as a “tone of voice”.
If one or more of these points seems difficult in practice, rest assured that it will come naturally given time and repetition. As with any craft, writing takes patience and dedication. The more familiar you become with your own writing style, the more easily you will be able to incorporate the above elements into your work. Happy writing!