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Zephyr's Compass

A blog about writing, photography, and everything in between.

The Art of Writing Pt. I

June 18th, 2012

*A revised version of my post on leetNEET.

Just a little about what I’ve learned as a writer at Random Curiosity and leetNEET.

First, a little about myself:
(Because when talking about experiences, one’s path is equally important.)

My first steps toward becoming a writer began when I read my first book. It’s been so long since then that I don’t remember when it happened exactly, but the important thing is this: I haven’t stopped reading since. There’s just something special about words in my view. Maybe it’s the fact that few other things can describe so much. Maybe it’s the fact that words have so much potentialso much power if used in certain ways. Regardless, reading was the key that sparked everything.

Eventually, I began to wonder: Why can’t I write my own book? And try I did. But after writing and failing to finish over a dozen different story drafts, I found out the hard way that writing wasn’t anywhere as easy as I thought it would be. Needless to say, I was quite demoralized and ended up not writing anything for a few years. But, I continued reading. And with every book I read, came the feeling that I just couldn’t give up writing without a fight—especially when I realized that I didn’t necessarily want a career in the sciences (I am currently a science major). Having been a follower of Random Curiosity for some two years, I eventually realized that there may yet be a way to write while also combining my love for anime and games. Following a discussion with some friends, I eventually joined leetNEET near the end of January. Ultimately, I would also join Random Curiosity a few months later. And well, the rest they say is history.

And so? What have you learned?
To say the least, I’ve learned plenty and here are some of the more important things I’ve realized as a writer:

1) Writing is almost never easy, but the results are always worth it.

Even the smallest and “easiest” to write articles can potentially take hours to write up. I mean, before you even start writing, you have to first decide on a topic to write about. Then you have to do research to ensure that you have enough information about that topic, while also verifying that your sources are trustworthy. The remaining part of the process differs slightly from person to person, but typically involves some mixture of listing down what aspects to write about, how to organize it in a coherent manner, then actually writing it out. Finally, there’s proofreading, as well as other things such as passing it by an editor if you have one, checking for proper of referencing of sources, finding or making suitable pictures, etc. In many cases, there’s probably some semblance of deadline to prepare for as well.

As such, the process itself is extensive even in its barest form, and may involve even more work and/or revisions depending on what you write about and/or who you work for. Still, even though every article you write can be considered quite an extensive undertaking, it’s always worth it. For one, you get to find out whether or not writing’s something you want to do. In addition, there’s also that satisfying feeling you get for knowing that you managed to finish something and that you’ve written something that people will actually read. And even if the article wasn’t necessarily up to snuff, in yours or your viewers’ views, the fact of the matter is that you’ll gain experience either way, as constantly writing is one of the best ways to improve. This is especially so when you have some constructive criticism to go with it.

2) One’s style may be just as important as what you write about.

One of my English teachers back in high school used to say: “Never Imitate. Instead, Emulate.” And it made a lot of sense. Imitating others will never result in a work that’s better than what you could write yourself. Not to mention you’ll probably violate a slew of laws and copyrights while doing so. Emulating on the other hand, while similar in meaning to imitation, slightly differs in the fact that you use other writers and their styles, and incorporate them within your own in order to bring yourself to new heights.. And well, it’s quite a sound idea to follow.

However, my view is that one should take this one step further, and avoid emulation as much as possible. Rather, it is my belief that the best way to write to your maximum potential is to write however damn well you want to at first. Then, you gradually alter your style accordingly to fix grammatical and spelling errors, as well as issues such as repetition and/or wordiness. It’s still okay to use other writers and their styles etc. as reference, but the point of my view is that it’s better to focus on developing your own style as you write, and merely improving the English aspects as you go on, rather than looking at other writers. Yes, they supply ideas and the like, but it’s my view that it’s best to avoid alternate influences as much as possible, in order to prevent the inevitable trap of changing your writing style to something that it isn’t. I know some people might not agree with some, if not all of what I’ve mentioned above, but it’s just that I feel that one’s writing style is an extremely important part of fulfilling one’s writing potential. Though, I will admit that this will result in the need to differentiate between the fine line of whether something written is stylistic and doesn’t need to be changed or nit picking by the person criticizing your work. Fall too much toward the stylistic tendency and you’ll end up wasting a lot of good criticism and potential chances of improvement. Fall too much towards following every criticism, and you’ll end up writing in a style that’s no longer your own.

3) Writing about something you like will typically yield better results, but…

It’s a given that people will definitely write better articles if given something they like or love to write about. However, it’s important not to limit yourself to only writing articles that belong to only one or a few genres or article types. Even if it’s something you don’t feel comfortable writing, or it’s something that you don’t usually write about, every experience in writing is vital. Experiences in aspects that you don’t usually tackle are in turn some of the most valuable of them all. In fact, some editors may intentionally assign you topics or article types outside of your usual niche, or you may outright be rejected opportunities. As such, it’s important for one to take the initiative to write something outside what’s typically preferred. I’m not saying not to find a niche, but one should also diversify when possible too.

Prior to writing at leetNEET and Random Curiosity, I had never written anything similar to posts I’ve written at those two sites. Since I joined however, I’ve settled on a niche of writing anime/gaming impressions/reviews… but have occasionally branched off to write news type articles, episodic summary/introductions, collaborative activities, as well as posts like this one. At the same time, I’ve thought up a variety of drafts for articles revolving around music discussions, and so forth. It’s been quite difficult at times and some of the articles have taken much longer than anticipated, but the overall experience was worth it, and I always have something to fall back on if I ever need to write articles involving similar genres or article type.

…Continued in The Art of Writing Pt. II (5/14/12 @leetNEET). 

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