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Techniques To Improve Writing

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					It seems like some people are "just born" with the knack of writing well. Others do a
good job with their writing but find the process to be difficult, even painful. Still
others feel like they have lots of room for improvement. No matter what category of
writer one is, one may benefit from one or all of the writing techniques below.
Freewriting Peter Elbow, in his book Writing Without Teachers, advocates this
technique to anyone, particularly to those who feel like their internal "critic" gets in
the way of writing effectively. Elbow outlines a few rules to help writers get started
with this method: Write for periods of ten minutes. Write quickly, but don't feel
pressured. Don't stop along the way to read back over what's been written or to revise
anything. Don't stop to figure something out. If a writer is stuck and can't think of
anything to write, she should just write something, whether it's the same word or
sentence over and over or writing about how she's stuck. The point is to just keep
writing. Why Freewriting Works Elbow says this technique is effective because,
during that ten minutes, a writer's internal critic is "shut off." He is able to write freely,
without worrying about grammar, spelling, content, structure, etc. While very little of
what he actually writes in a freewriting exercise is usable, the freedom to simply let
himself write without worry will help his composition in general. He can also use this
approach to brainstorm particular areas or paragraphs of an essay, for example, if he
feels like he's stuck. Obviously, Elbow says, writers don't want to write this way all
the time, but a focused freewriting session once a day or several times a week can
help any writer gain confidence and feel more at ease when sitting down to write. To
get started, here are some lists of freewriting topics. Reading for Fun Yes, reading.
Stephen King, arguably one of the most prolific and well-read authors of our time,
stresses in his book On Writing that "reading a lot" (and "writing a lot") are crucial to
becoming a better writer. King actually recommends four to six hours of reading
every day, but any reading for pleasure every day will help, no matter the length of
time one spends. Simply being exposed to new vocabulary, varied sentence structures,
and grammatically-correct texts can improve one's own techniques without much
conscious effort on one's part. Active Reading So what's the difference between
reading for fun and active reading? Well, with active reading, writers are literally
working with the text. Very often, writers will do active reading with nonfiction, but
one can use this method when analyzing fiction as well. Writers can engage
themselves with the material in a number of ways: Highlighting or underlining words
or passages that seem important. Writing definitions of unfamiliar words in the
margins. Annotating text; that is, the writer makes notes as she reads, either in the
margins or on a separate sheet of paper. Interacting with the text by asking questions
on paper before, during, and after one reads, then attempting to answer those
questions. Choosing One's Own Topic College students may not always have this
option. If one does get to choose, though, the writer should pick a topic he's
passionate about. If he's feeling lukewarm about his subject, his writing will likely be
mediocre as well (or, at the very least, it may take more effort). If a writer have no say
about the subject matter, she might want to try to find some portion of the writing to
get excited about, because if she can feel enthusiastic about any part of her topic, it
may help her enjoy the remainder of her essay. Writer, Know Thyself Not all these
techniques may work for everyone, but when a writer finds something that does work,
he should stick with it. Not every writer writes the same way, so one shouldn't worry
if his writing techniques are less than conventional. As long as one finds that his
writing is improving, who can argue with his success? Keep writing! Persistent
writers are rewarded with improvement.
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posted:2/22/2011
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