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Writing Right: The Blog

A "CHEAT SHEET" FOR WRITING

Here's something I came across on the Internet the other day. Someone had actually created a "cheat sheet" for writing. Why? "For myself," he said. "All the information is available via Google and or classes. My goal is to create a reference go-to-document." Then, he listed the cheat sheet URL, which I'll spare you. Here's my response.

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From what I see, your "cheat sheet" isn't about writing; it's about writing Deep Point-of-View, which is a substantially more limited subject than your question implies. Also, the examples you present in your "cheat sheet" aren't well written. Not at all. Many of them are good examples of how not to write. Also, your explanations of the examples you give aren't always very clear, pertinent, or accurate. (And, of course, you need to clean up your typos.) I don't think any of these tips are things you should be impressing upon other writers, particularly less experienced and knowledgeable ones. Apart from that, I have a question for you.

 

What on earth are you doing to yourself as a writer? Or, rather, what aren't you doing? You sound as if you're an academician whose goal is to compartmentalize certain aspects of writing "rules" for regurgitation to a few dozen students in a classroom at some point down the line. If that's the case, I can see why you'd value something such as your "cheat sheet." Otherwise, I can't. In fact, I can see it doing more harm than good for serious beginning writers. Far more!

 

Here's my suggestion for a much shorter "cheat sheet," if you'll excuse the usurping of the phrase. I think more writers would find it of greater universal value than one that takes fifty-three pages to discuss various examples of Deep POV.

 

  1. Learn all the rules to writing possible. And I mean all of them. Don't get discouraged if it seems to take longer than a day or two—as in a lifetime.
  2. Practice what you learn by writing as much fiction and nonfiction in every genre possible for every outlet imaginable until there is literally nothing you can't write, from business correspondence and newspaper reportage to feature articles, short stories, screenplays, and that great American novel you've been toying with tackling for years.
  3. Work at writing for a living (you know, where a paycheck is involved) for two or three decades, and learn something of value every single day you show up for work.
  4. Edit other writers' works, which ties in with number one, above, and do so conscientiously, exhaustively, and professionally. Don't merely say things to say things; say things because they need to be said.
  5. Learn when and how to break "the rules" in your own writing. And do so with impunity as often as necessary to improve the creativity, flow, strength, and readability of your work.
  6. Develop a mind like a steel trap, but leave plenty of room for creating imaginative descriptive images, which are really what effective (you know, "good") writing is all about. It's sometimes called "painting with words." It's always, in the end, called amazing.
  7. Analyze and evaluate everything you write, and then edit it to eliminate any weak spots.
  8. Teach Creative Writing Workshop at the college level during your free time.
  9. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Several times. (Spin dry only if necessary.)

That's it. My ten-point cheat sheet. Much shorter, more targeted, and more appropriate for writers than any other I've ever run across.

 

What's that? I only listed nine points? Oops. Sorry about that. My mistake. Try this tenth one on for size:

 

Learn from your mistakes, and never quit learning.

 

Hope this helps. If anyone wants examples of any of the points above, you probably shouldn't be concerned about becoming a writer anyway. Just my take on it.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new ebook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere.

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