In the Times‘ Sunday Book Review, novelist Colson Whitehead provides a great refresher (or primer, depending on where your writing chops sit) on the art of good writing. Mercifully, Whitehead eschews the treacly mysticism present in so many “how tos” for writers. He doesn’t advocate drawing a bath and reading Foucault by candlelight in order to find your muse. Instead, he provides good, actionable advice for writers at all levels. His notes are purely practical and great for the working or aspiring blogger. If you find yourself awash in great ideas but unable to translate them into words, Whitehead’s advice should help you considerably.
- The old adage of “show, don’t tell” is often flawed and may hamper your writing’s effectiveness. It’s a common ailment: banging one’s head on the desk countless times, fervently trying to show but only being able to tell. Instead, do both, especially when writing brief pieces. Your audience will thank you for it.
- On the other hand, the equally old adage of “write what you know” is just as relevant as ever. But rather than limiting yourself to an exhaustive history of Java development or a paean to great UX design, use what you know to inform your writing on any subject. Inject a bit of yourself and your craft into everything you write. You’ll be better for it.
- Be concise. Be grateful for every word you can cut.
- Live. Have adventures. Experience things, both good and bad. It’ll make you a better writer whether you want it to or not.
- Revise. Then revise again. As Hemingway famously said, “The first draft of anything is shit.”