Vision: A Resource for Writers

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The Right Way to Write

By Elizabeth Chayne
Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Chayne, All Rights Reserved

Most of us grew up with English teachers who insisted our writing had to be just so: correct grammar, correct spelling, complete sentences, no exclamation marks, and so on. Itís not surprising that so many people tend to consider good writing a formula rather than an artistic creation process.

How to Write

When you leave the world of high school essay writing and enter the world of real writing, you may feel like there are rules you have to follow to write a good story. You may also have questions swimming round your head that are a variation of:

  • What kind of pen should I use?

  • Should I type, or write it on paper, or use notebooks?

  • Is it better to use a notepad or a notebook?

  • Where should I write?

  • When is the best time to write?

To these and many other questions, I usually reply "Whatever works for you", only to be met with the query, "But what do real writers do?" After all, doing things right is halfway to doing them good, right?

This may come as a disappointment, but the answer still holds. Whatever works for you is best. There is no proper way to write, anymore than there is any proper filling for a sandwich. Over the centuries, there have been hundreds of writers, and every one of them had different writing preferences. Some typed, some wrote in pencil; some wrote at parties, while others wrote in cafes, libraries, or private studios. Some liked to write at night, some woke up early to squeeze writing time in, and some wrote after work. How you write has no direct connection to the quality of your writing. A word of caution, though: if you have school the next day, donít stay up until the wee hours writing!

Why to Write

So, great, you know you can use any method you think is best to write. But what about your reason for writing? Arenít there good ones and bad ones? 

People write for a variety of reasons, which may be public or personal or both at the same time. But unless youíre writing with the express intent to hurt someone through your writing, thereís no actual wrong reason to write.

Some of you may think that writing for monetary profit alone is a "bad" goal, and thus you may strive to find millions of other reasons to explain why you write. The truth is that while "I want to earn money" doesnít sound as noble as "Iím writing to save the world", writing for profit is still an okay reason to write, and itís always good to be honest with yourself about what you hope to get out of writing.

So, however greedy, self-serving, or pompous your reason to write is, say it out loud. Admit it. When you know what it is you want out of writing, youíre more likely to get it. And if you feel like quitting, your reason to write may make all the difference in making you sit down and write again.

What to Write (or, Is This Real Writing?)

"I feel like my writing is just a hazy copy of Harry Potter. Does that make me a bad writer, or a good copycat?"

Answer: neither.

Do you worry that youíre writing stories similar to your favorite writerís? If so, donít panic. Itís normal to want to write as well as your favorite writers (after all, theyíre not your favorite writers for nothing!), and imitation is part of any learning process. You can always good back and rewrite your fanfics after youíve developed your own voice, but itís impossible to rewrite a blank sheet of paper!

Put aside your worries, and just write. Forget the musts and must-nots, and express yourself exactly as you want to.

Further Reading

An informative site for teenage writers.