5 Elements of Stellar Writing {read}


Is something missing in your writing?  Need a boost to make it stellar?  What is the difference between good writing and writing that puts the reader in the character’s shoes?

5 Elements of Stellar Writing {read}

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Have I ever written a Writing post?  No.  I’ve been writing book reviews.  This is the first in the WRITING {read} series.

Why would a reader write about writing?  What could a reader possibly know about writing?

Good questions.

Consider the football fanatic.  Or the connoisseur of any particular fine food.  Does one have to be a football player to understand the game and appreciate (or criticize) a game?  Does one need to be a world class chef in order to understand how a dish is prepared or to appreciate one that tastes as it should and better than most?  Of course not.

We could also ask:

Does a professional football player, or any football player, prefer taking instruction (or criticism) from someone who has never played the game or from someone with oodles of experience?  Does a chef take the word of a customer concerning the quality of his product?

These are rhetorical questions.

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I’m going out on a limb by presuming that my reading experience qualifies me to be critical of an author’s ability to write.

And though my critical skills are far from technical, as a writing instructor’s, they are adept at detecting a good read.

#1  –  Choose a Point of View

There are numerous methods of conveying a story, which , depending on the author and the author’s experience, may or may not produce the desired effect.

For instance, there is the point of view from which the story is told.

This can be the first person, as in Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (I couldn’t get past the first page), or it can alternate between two (or more) characters’ points of view, even in different time periods.

There is also the almighty narrator’s point of view, which is nobody’s point of view because the narrator can’t see or fee what the characters think or feel.

A reader may dogmatically say he consistently likes or dislikes one point of view, only to discover that a new author writes quite effectively from that point of view.  The reader would do well to keep an open mind.

#2  –  Pay Attention to Grammar and Style

Another aspect of writing is grammar and style.  Every writer should be well-acquainted with Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and know how to use spell check and Grammar.ly on their computer (or your program’s writing editor).

writing-hand-silhouetteBut I’m not a writer, so what do I know?

Here are my qualifications.  I own a copy of Elements of Style, which I have read more than once.  I tested out of college English my freshman year (the grammar part — I took a writing class), and here’s why.

My parents were obsessed with speaking and writing proper English grammar.  Obsessed.  I only heard proper grammar from them, along with numerous conversations about other people’s incorrect grammar.

I know what proper grammar sounds like.

There is, however, an exception to this flat-out rule of proper grammar in writing.  This is conjecture on my part, as a reaction to reading.

The book I just finished, Tough As They Come, by Travis Mills, is a good example.  In the beginning of the book I thought it was poorly written, even though he co-wrote the book with an experienced author.

Tough As They Come is a memoir written when the author was (and still is) in his twenties.  It is written in the first person.  For example, I think the frequent use of the word ‘like’ in writing is in poor taste, not to mention grammatically incorrect.  However, as I continued reading I either got used to it or it lessened, and I realized it was the author’s voice.

If it’s the way he talks, it belongs in the book.  It develops his character, does it not?

That doesn’t mean the reader has to like the character.  Incorrect grammar may be used as a tool to develop a distasteful fictional character.  Whatever its use, it must be authentic and intentional.

#3  –  Put the Reader In the Story.  Make the reader feel like he is there, right in the place where the story is happening.  Describe the setting, characters and story so the reader hears, sees, smells, feels, and even tastes what the characters in the story hear, see, smell, feel and taste.

charles-dickens-at-publwriting-desk#4  –  Show the Story, don’t tell it.  With few exceptions, which seasoned authors may successfully use, a story must be shown to the reader rather than related in narrative.  Therein lies the difference between textbook writing and story telling.

I can’t tell you how to do this, but I know when I’m reading it (or not).

This morning I read an excellent article which shows the difference between showing and telling.  If you need further explanation hop on over to Alycia Morales and Andrea Merrell’s blog  the Write Editing for Alycia’s helpful post, 2 Things Your Characters Shouldn’t Be Doing.

The exceptions to this may be the use of a letter or other writing which involves a different viewpoint.  Generally the more of the story the point of view character is present for, the more engaged the reader.

#5  –  Invent Characters which are Believable and Identifiable.  Your characters should not be perfect.  They should be flawed.  But they should also be believable.  And their character should be affected by the circumstances of the story.  The reader should identify with one or more of the characters, and feel and think along with them as they learn and grow.

Remember these five elements are essential for stellar writing:

  • #1 – Choose a Point of View
  • #2 – Pay Attention to Grammar and Style
  • #3 – Put the Reader In the Story.
  • #4 – Show the Story, don’t tell it.
  • #5 – Invent Characters which are Believable and Identifiable.

Happy Writing!

 Don’t forget to leave a comment below sharing what element of writing you struggle with, or what you’ve learned to make your writing stellar.  

We’d love to have you join in the conversation!

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One thought on “5 Elements of Stellar Writing {read}

  1. Karen says:

    Hi Joyce, on the subject of what area of writing is a struggle, here is a struggle I’ve only realized in the past year. I stopped writing because of it – not for good (I don’t think) but just for the time being. For years, I have been writing all of my heart in my journals. I think I got that from psychology – the idea that it’s good to ‘let it all out’. But as I read the Bible more carefully, I’ve started to feel it’s not and that I need to get a filter. So many passages in Proverbs about spoken words and also about anger and in the New Testament and the Psalms.

    I’ve never ever tried to filter anything I wrote and never considered the consequences that might come from anything I’ve written. After never having a filter, I’m not sure how to have a filter. I think it likely has to do with self-control. I am much more conscious of what is ‘coming out’ of my heart now and writing hardly anything at all. The struggle is: how do I write what I want to say and still follow the Bible? I have things to say (well, that I want to say), but I feel that writing those things may and/or does contradict Biblical principles. So that is my struggle. But I am sure if I keep reading the Bible, God will help resolve it for me somehow.

    That is one neat thing about the Old Testament – well and even the Lord’s parables. “Show. Don’t tell.” Lots of stories there to show us something.

    Liked by 1 person

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