Saturday, September 18, 2010

How to write like JK Rowling

I was googling about creative writing a few weeks back and came across some pretty good basic tips that most of us would find it easy to understand, put it into application and perhaps, be on our road to J.K. Rowling's success or the equivalent. That's what I initially thought. Have a read and see how well you apply it.

As for me, it is still a constant struggle. I am still uncertain as to what my style is plus I have a tendency to be chiong hei (Cantonese for long winded). I definitely don't write the way I talk- even my own brother says that he rather hear me tell my stories then read them at my blog.

So, here are some basic tips that I hope will help you.

Creative Writing Tip #1: Be Simple

Write in the simple, natural language of everyday speech. This doesn't mean that you confine yourself to only the most basic words, but that you avoid pompous language, which may cloud your meaning or send readers to sleep.

For example, do not say, He acquired an instrument of destruction wherewith he decapitated the formidable foe, when you mean, With his axe he chopped off the giant's head. Use short, familiar words rather than long, obscure ones - unless the longer word fits your meaning more precisely.

Most good writing is simple. Read the works of authors like Jack London and Ernest Hemingway; read the classics; read the Bible. Simple language is the strongest and most effective.

One way to acquire good style is to study the works of great writers: not to imitate them but to learn how simple language can be elegant, lyrical and powerful.

Creative Writing Tip #2: Be Yourself

Be yourself; be natural and sincere. Don't try to imitate another writer's style; find your own, the style that bears the stamp of your personality.

A guarded, polished style is like a faceless mask; it's not real. Good writing resonates with the true voice of the human author, with all of that author's warmth, wit, idiosyncrasies and vulnerabilities.

Write as if you're speaking to a friend. Your reader should be able to hear the rhythms and cadences of your speaking voice. Your family and friends should be able to say, “This sounds like you.”

Creative Writing Tip #3: Be Precise

Choose words that say precisely what you mean.

Avoid trite words like nice, interesting, big. As in: We had a nice dinner; That's a big bird. Be specific. Is it sushi, wonton or mutton curry? Is it a flamingo, an eagle or an ostrich?

Avoid vague words like walk, laugh, pour. Be creative. The boy ambled, shuffled, swaggered; the villain scoffed, jeered, sneered; water gurgled, gushed, spurted out.

Avoid meaningless words like thing, something, somewhere. Be definite. Name the thing or place, use concrete words that evoke clear images: click on this link for more Creative Writing Tips on Concrete Words.

Get a thesaurus to help you. Roget's Thesaurus, for example, is an indispensable reference tool. It comes in many versions; pick the one that best suits your needs.

A dictionary of synonyms helps too. Webster's New Dictionary of Synonyms, for example, tells you the subtle difference between almost similar words. Or get the compact version, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms.

Choose words that convey your message clearly to readers. Good writers look for the apt word, the word that carries the precise denotation and the strongest, richest connotations. For more Creative Writing Tips on Denotations and Connotations of Words, go to Good Word Choice.

Creative Writing Tip #4: Be Concise

Concise writing is clear and strong. Write to the point, cut out unnecessary words. This doesn't mean that you throw out all details, descriptions and figures of speech but that you make every word pull its weight.

Cut out meaningless words and phrases like basically, personally, as a matter of fact.
As a matter of fact, today is my birthday has the same meaning as Today is my birthday.
Personally, I feel we shouldn't go near the bull: can anyone ever feel impersonally?

Don't repeat yourself. Phrases like round in shape, the reason is because, revert back, say the same thing twice.

Use strong action verbs. Sentences with active verbs are shorter and stronger than those with passive verbs.

Active Verb: The man bit the dog.
Passive Verb: The dog was bitten by the man.
Click here for more Creative Writing Tips on Action Verbs. Replace roundabout phrases like in the event of, by virtue of the fact that, by the name of, with single words that do the same job, like if, because, named.

Phrases like there is, there was, it was dilute your meaning:
There was a baby crying in the basket; it was the baby's cry that woke him up.
Cut out the verbiage: A baby was crying in the basket; the baby's cry woke him up.


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