La Deb asks me to write about writing. Hell’s bells! Since I claim I’ll go to the ends of the earth to do what my friends ask of me, I’m bound. But what…would…I…know…about…writing? Moreover, whatever will I say that hasn’t been said by her, talent par excellence herself? πŸ™

Here goes nevertheless….

Writing is a conversation. So talk. Then again, most people don’t know how to talk. Let’s start again. Writing, like talking should be as simple as thinking. You don’t try to think. You just do. The ideas just appear in your head in pictures, in images, in sounds, in smells, in words. As you instinctively understand them without needing to string them together into coherent sentences, assume that your listeners and readers will do the same. You’ll be amazed at how easily people understand each other.

Writing is not a performance art. It is a technique, a medium of expression at best. And don’t look for ways to use a certain word. Maybe you really love that word. Rest assured that if your love is true, it will find a way into your expression without your having to engineer a sentence for it. Contrived ideas and sentences are painful. The effort shows and real class is in being, not in trying.

Writing is an art but a disciplined one. This is pretty basic but still true. Use correct grammar (but don’t agonize over it). Check your spellings (that’s what Spell Check and the dotted red lines are for). Try to use short sentences. This isn’t a definitive rule but try not to exceed more than 2 lines for a single sentence. And please, please, use paragraphs. It really makes reading easier and your writing more coherent.

Writing is the art of revealing and concealing thought. There is real power in saying something in fewer words. Short stories, advertisement taglines, joke punchlines all rely on this. Bloggers, do try fifty-five word stories. These are an excellent way to practise concise writing.

And finally, don’t ever forget that writing is expression. There are no rules about writing styles. Think of what makes you laugh: sarcasm, spoofs, mimicry, slapstick, nonsense, fantasy, irony. There are as many kinds of writing as there are people in the world. I think it is a grave mistake, at least in the beginning, to follow anybody else’s work. Find your own style and develop it.

I’d really like to hear these people’s thoughts on writing:

Neha Vishwanathan, because her writing is simple, straightforward and unaffected, celebrity-blogger status notwithstanding. Poetry, narratives, fiction-fragments, each post on Neha’s blog is a delight to read.

Alphabet Soup, because I’ve watched her writing grow practically at super-speed from basic potential to bestseller material. Her output never ceases to amaze me. How do you do it, girl?

N, because I have the good fortune to know her offline as well and I know that her expression is always top-quality. Neat, slick and impactful…these apply to her speech, emails and posts. Let’s hear it from the pro!

Manuscrypts, because no one can write a short story like he can!

13 thoughts on “How to write”
  1. Having acknowledged the truth in most of your commentary, let me add this much:

    You’ve written about how to write rather than about writing. Certainly there’s more to writing than just mechanics!

  2. @ Sumant: See title. πŸ˜€ That said, what makes anyone think that I know anything about writing? Not fishing sirrr….I honestly haven’t the faintest notion what to say to that.

    @ Loup: Ah, yes, that too!

  3. Good advice, but I rather like long, winding sentences. Done properly, it can be lovely and not a run-on. But brevity is wonderful, too.

    Great examples of good writing πŸ™‚

  4. Yo the examples are absolutely great. And thanks for letting me know about the 55 word concept. Will try and practise.

  5. @ Vi: I think you write very well, yourself. Really.

    @ Arvind Iyer: *MEXICAN WAVE*

    @ Deepika: Wonderful! I suggested it to a friend and she loved them so much she turned into Shreyasi Deb, the Goddess of 55ers!!

    @ Neha: Yippppeee!

    @ greekalphabet: Ulllp….sowwee…. *embarassed grin*

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