Thursday, November 18, 2010

Topic: Writing Style

10-second review: Some thoughts on writing style.

Quote: “A writers style should not place obstacles between his ideas and the minds of his readers.” Steve Allen. Writer’s Digest magazine.

Quote: “Rewriting is … a constant attempt on my part to make the finished version smooth, to make it seem effortless.” James Thurber. Cowley, Writers at Work.

Quote: “Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next.” Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Quote: “Clutter is the disease of American writing… a society strangling on unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.” Zinsser, On Writing Well.

Quote: “[Herbert] Spencer…defined writing style as that which requires the least effort of understanding.” Will Durant. The Story of Philosophy.”

Comment: My professional English education journals write a lot about the individual nature of writing style. They say that students should find their own writing style and that teachers should not interfere with it. Their articles will point to the simplicity of Hemingway’s writing and the complexity of Faulkner’s. But that is literature.

When writing in most nonfiction prose, I define style as—The reader starts to read and continues reading as if compelled, without obstructions, from idea to idea through the concluding paragraph. When writers achieve that compulsion to read from beginning to end—once you start, you can’t stop—I know that the writer’s style has put up no obstruction to my understanding of the ideas. That’s good writing—and good writing style, in exposition, persuasion and argumentation. RayS.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Topic: Ending an Article

10-second review: A number of methods for ending an article effectively.

Quote: “One of the best ways to end is to use a top-notch illustration, which has been saved for that purpose. If it is to be a humorous, entertainment piece, leave the reader with the biggest chuckle of the whole thing. If it is biography, end with an anecdote,  or dramatized incident, or perhaps a quote about, or by, your subject—one which beautifully sums up the point you have made about him.

“If it’s an idea piece, especially if it is a crusade article aimed to get the reader to act, sum up the reasons why he should act, or exactly what he should do about the situation. Do you want him to report to a clinic for a checkup? Write his senators? Adopt safer rules for driving? …. Let your parting words be specific.

“If it is a fact article, stop when you have laid out your facts, when you have said what you wanted to say.”

Comment: Quotes like these from The Writer magazine and Writer’s Digest will be helpful to students in your high school writing classes. They are written in plain English. RayS.

Title: “An Article Is Like a Sideshow.” Helen Doss. November 1958. In The Writer’s Guide to Good Writing, Ed. T Clark, et al., 1994, pp. 128-133.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Topic: A well-written article

10-second review: Model of a well-written article.

Quote: “A well-constructed article is like a sideshow. Let’s stroll down a typical circus midway, and take a look at one of the ballyhooed attractions.

“First you see a teaser from the show, right smack in front of you, to catch your eye. Then a sideshow barker belts out a short spiel, telling you why you should plunk down your money and come in, and why you’ll be glad if you do and sorry if you don’t. If the teaser appeals to you, and the barker persuades you that this is something you don’t want to miss, you go in and catch the tent show. The show works up to a rousing conclusion in the finale, and that’s it. If the teaser was truly a foretaste of even better things to come, and if the barker was right when he told you that this was something you would not want to miss, you leave the show with good feelings about it.

“The same is true of an article.”

Title: “An Article Is Like a Sideshow.” Helen Doss. November 1958. In The Writer’s Guide to Good Writing, Ed. T Clark, et al., 1994, pp. 128-133.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Topic: Advice on Writing

10-second review: Using facts and research in stories.

Quote: “Then when you have all the information you need, use it sparingly, keeping in mind that while readers like stories to have authentic flavor, they don’t like to feel that they’re being educated. Facts for facts’ sake will only irritate the reader, but if your realistic details serve to advance the story instead of attempting to stand on their own isolated merit, your [stories] will ring true and add immeasurably to its salability.”

Comment: I’ve noted that many popular novels provide information on a variety of professions. The statement in this quote that stands out for me is “…while readers like stories to have authentic flavor, they don’t like to feel that they’re being educated.” The “facts” have to advance the story. A reminder.  RayS.

Title: “Research in Reverse.” Richard Deming. March 1956. In The Writer’s Guide to Good Writing, Ed. T Clark, et al., 1994, pp. 128-133.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Topic: Contracts for Publishing Articles

10-second review: An interesting review of contract issues in signing a contract for a writing assignment. Advice from Milton C. Toby, a Georgetown, Ky. Attorney.

Title: “Contracts 101: What You Need to Know.” K James-Enger. The Writer (October 2009), 40-41.

Comment: This a valuable article with valuable advice for writers. You need to read the entire article. I have highlighted only some of the issues. RayS.

Quote: Toby: “Anytime you’re presented with a contract, [remember that] it was written in favor of the person who is giving it to you.”

Quote: “Understand that when you sell all rights (sometimes called a ‘work-for-hire’ agreement) to a story, you’re precluded from reprinting or reusing that piece ever again.”

Quote: “A common clause in national magazines requires you to agree ‘not to write about the same or similar subject of the work from the date hereof until six months after the on-sale date of the issue of the magazine in which the work is published.’ ” …. “Signing this provision means you could be prevented from covering a similar subject for a different publisher for months while you wait for your first story to run.”

Quote: “Indemnification. In a broad sense indemnification means that if the magazine is sued over something you’ve written, you’ve agreed to basically take on the defense yourself—you’re going to step in and say, ‘I’ll defend you—I will take care of this.’ ” …. “However, some contracts that have indemnification provisions also reserve the right to edit your work. Your work could be rewritten, introducing factual errors (or worse, libeling someone) resulting in a lawsuit—which you would be responsible for under the indemnification provision.”

Quote: “Research notes and other materials. More contracts are asking that you turn over ‘all notes, transcripts and research materials’ created while researching and writing the story.”

Quote: “Changing contracts… Legally a contract represents a ‘meeting of the minds’ of two parties, so if you don’t like a certain provision, you can always strike it by crossing it out and adding your initials and date. However, the publisher must agree by countersigning the change.”

Comment: If all this is as new to you as it is to me, you’ll need to hire a lawyer before signing a publishing contract. RayS.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Topic: Tone

Reminder: “Not all serious stories are sad. Yours may be more reflective or meditative.” P. 37.

Comment: I prefer stories that are reflective or meditative. I like to  think, not cry. RayS.

Title: “Making Readers Cry.” K Stevenson. The Writer (October 2009), 36-37.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Topic: Freelancing

10-second review: How to intrigue an editor with your idea for your next article.

Title: “Win Repeat Business.” R Stevenson. The Writer(October 2009),35.

Quote: “Send a pitch for a new article idea when you send a contracted-for and completed article.”

Comment: Never thought of it. RayS.