Title Card - Better Writer

A Few Things That Helped Me Become A Better Writer

Writing is a passion and an escape for many people. There are no rules on what to write when you’re writing for yourself: you can write about whatever you want, however you want, and choose whatever direction you want to go. You can create vast worlds with new, unexplored frontiers, or you can write in this world with real experiences. It’s entirely up to you what you want to say to your readers and how you want to speak to them. It was once said that Michelangelo didn’t create David, he found him in the block of marble and brought him out of it for the world to appreciate him. In a sense, the difference between a blank page and a fresh sculpting block isn’t all that great; there is equal potential for creation in the page as there is in a solid block of marble.

For me personally, I find the English language and its constructions fascinating. Each word is a tool that can be used in several different ways to convey meaning in a message, and each punctuation mark represents a unique method of joining your words together. Entire sentences can carry new meaning with similar structure simply by shifting the way you use the tools that are available to you. There are different words that have similar meanings that can either broaden or narrow your focus, depending on the word you choose. Some words may be perfect for what you are trying to describe, but don’t fit the tone or voice you are writing. It is all of these little individual challenges that fascinate me and make me want to dive deep into sentence structure, semantics, and word play.

One of the courses that I have recently been listening to is Professor Brooks Landon’s “Building Great Sentences: Exploring The Writer’s Craft.” It has taught me a great deal about the varying types of constructions, including cumulative and suspensive syntax, the function of clauses, and some of the word choice that can go into building some truly great sentences. He frequently relates his topics to some of the classic and modern writing masters, citing incredible sentences from well-respected authors like William Gass, Virginia Woolf, and Samuel Johnson, among many more. It is admittedly a fairly dense course that dives deep into some of the intricacies of English as a whole, but for language enthusiasts like myself, it is certainly a very valuable course with a great deal to learn.

Of course, when it comes down to it, the best things you can do as a writer to improve your writing is to read books and practice writing. I received the “Treasury of American Writers,” a collection of short stories on a variety of genres that have been published over the years in Harper’s magazine, as a Christmas gift that has exposed me to quite the variety of reading. From Harper’s you expect some of the best: names like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Bertrand Russell, and E.M. Forster to name a few, and this only scratches the surface of the namesake treasure trove of writers. Short stories have the added benefit of being manageable stories of convenient size: a story you can likely read in a single sitting or two. Reading just one a day can open you up to a plethora of writing in a short amount of time.

Of course, there are many modern stories everywhere, for those who want to have something written in a style closer to the language and phrasing we use today. Personally, I am a very large science fiction fan, and I will often look for new stories and worlds I can lose myself in. One of my personal favourite recommendations to any science fiction reader is the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. In my opinion, I believe he is one of the greatest science fiction authorities on how to write and describe action in the context of battles of sizable magnitude. His worldbuilding stays within the realm of believability, and his main characters carry a great deal of depth in their description.

Writing doesn’t come easily, and I am certain that I have much more to learn from countless masters I have yet to meet, but the basis I have been given has really put me on the right track. Let us know what stories have inspired you!