Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Blogging Without Tears

In my travels early this morning I came across a blog (via Fleming at View From The Moon) called Reading Without Tears, a popular old book which teaches children how to read. It's still used, and I've heard other parents of little ones recommend it (reminder to self: obtain copy for Lord Running Boy). The blog is new but by a professional of the craft muses delightfully on writing. This post goes to the heart of why blogging is nothing less than a Cultural Revolution, and why I like it. I could have written this post. Woulda. Shoulda! But Vincent did for me:

"Twenty-five years ago, I bought The Art of Writing, a volume in the "Made Simple" series. It had been written ten years earlier and has an out-of-date feel now. So what? I feel out-of tune with the age too. Browsing through it again recently, I discovered many shortfalls, the worst being its lack of guidance on writing sentences.

You'd think that The Art of Building a House would have a chapter on bricklaying, or how to build the walls out of mud and wattle. But a book on laying bricks---or even making them---would not tell you how to build the whole house.

I have no idea how to write a book, though I have written one to someone else's order, which was not very satisfying. Long ago, I planned an erudite volume, to be called Seer and System, whilst commuting to work on London's Underground. All I had was ideas. I was defeated by structure and could not even write an attractive sentence.

I have since realised that my default style, the thing that comes naturally, is to start afresh every time and to stop after about 500 words. What seems natural is a little piece of prose that hands over to the reader's imagination very soon, after being painfully truthful about my experience---the only thing I know.

So blogging suits me perfectly. It's immediate, informal, small-scale.

In writing, every sentence can be a miniature work of art. I don't mean overwork it till you are bored, or till the reader thinks you are trying to be clever. Play with word order. The beginning of a sentence is one hotspot and the end is even hotter. Manipulate the word order to put the most significant part of your statement at the end.

Be aware of repetition, I mean use it to your advantage, as in a tune; but control any re-use of same word or phrase which jars the eye and ear.

Look at your writing critically, as soon as your sentence is complete; but also hours or days later.

Blogging is great: you get free critics.

I don't know if a writing course would truly help. Blogging is a training to write, and it could go on for life. But you need a good eye and ear, not to imitate the bad writing of others, and not to betray your own soul. You must be tuned to what delights you.

And then you have to work on delighting others too."

(Update: since starting in on this post this AM, Vincent himself of Reading Without Tears has stopped by and left a number of nice comments. Thank you very much, Vincent. I really admire your writing, and will be a regular visitor from Portlock.)


Vincent said...

Oh thanks my Lord, you do one too much honour, or indeed honor, your Honor.

MarcLord said...

And you as well, Vince(nt). What was the book, or the subject of it, which you wrote for someone else?

Fleming said...

MarcLord, I have to tell you that the link to "Fleming" in your post goes to a blog that is not mine, although it has the same name as mine. I'm very confused and a little concerned by that.

I found after I'd created VIEW FROM THE MOON that there was another blog called THE VIEW FROM THE MOON, but that was the only similar name I could find.

Maybe you can help me figure this out. I did not write the post to which you linked, and nothing there relates to me.

MarcLord said...

Whoa! Sorry about that. Will check it out pronto, sure it was simply my bad when typing in the link.

MarcLord said...

fleming, fixed linkie. thanks for alerting!

Vincent said...

In answer to your question, Marc, I ghosted an autobiography of a prominent citizen of my town, a Jamaican who became Mayor. It is not like in America. You hold the post for a year and it is a bit like being the King or Queen of the town: you wear a ancient gold chain and engage in various ritual activities.

It was hard to make it interesting. But the opportunity came my way unsought and was a learning experience all round!