Many of us here, either bloggers for Tocsin Magazine or visitors to the website, are avid writers and readers. Many people think that writing and reading starts with the first word or chapter or line, and ends with the last. This is not at all the case!
In this blog, I will discuss honing in on your craft, and how to write thoughtfully and consciously.
The first thing to consider when writing anything is "who is my audience?" This will influence the topic which you decide to write on, and thus the theme and popularity of your piece.
The second thing to consider is "what style do I wish to portray?" If you are writing poetry, ask yourself "does my poem need rhyme, rhythm and meter?" Or maybe, you are picturing something free verse? Then again, how free-verse does this need to be? Consider your theme and topic before you start to write. For example, if your theme is nature and your topic is a flower, do you want to cover the depth of the flower (asking for something shorter) or are you writing on the flower itself (mid-length). Maybe you want to discuss every detail of the flower, almost the study of the flower if you will (thus a longer poem). Is the flower one stanza, or a study of every stanza?
The third thing to ask yourself is what emotions do I want to evoke? Every sensation of the the flower (consider dedicating the entire poem to the flower) or the emotion of the beauty of nature (maybe then the flower itself is one stanza). Do you want to cause an uproar? Do you want the reader to cry? Do you want the reader to be confused? Is your piece a mystery, and the answer revealed at the end? Are you stating something or asking the reader a question? Is this piece factual or exploring various opinions? If so, how many opinions are being discussed or thought about?
Before you begin to write, consider this fourth tactic of pre-planning. What topic do I want to discuss. I had a teacher in high school who discussed this idea with me, when I was writing an extended essay (I was in a college-prep program in high school, and this was a requirement for every student). For example, what if your topic was the American Revolution? A long essay might discuss the American Revolution in general, whereas if you are writing a shorter piece (for example a blog!), you should hone in on one aspect or topic about the American Revolution. Take for example the idea that you are writing a thesis. Consider whether there is enough research and content to fill an entire thesis. Ask yourself, how much research does this piece of writing require? What kind of research does this piece require? Do I need any research at all? Remember, if you are writing an opinion-piece or something more creative, it might seem strange to throw in one or two sources. My opinion is if you are researching, your piece should be supported by at least a handful of sources. Additionally, consider when in history your sources come from. Does this support the theme of my piece? Does it even support the style?
The fifth thing to consider, once you begin writing, is word choice. Pull out a thesaurus, and really take time to experiment with word choice. Ask yourself, what kind of language supports my theme, topic and structure? If a word seems out of place, consider using a synonym. This is especially important in the modern-world with online SEO practices and search engines. Does my word choice need to be persuasive and opinionated? Am I writing something factual? If so, maybe your word choice should have words that more so state a fact like "In fact, thus, because, therefore, it is, since etc."
The sixth thing to consider is punctuation. What kind of punctuation does this piece of writing call for? Can I experiment with punctuation, or should I "follow the books?" Does my punctuation need to state an opinion or convey a fact? Is this piece opinionated or factual? Am I asking the reader questions? Should the sentences be long or short?
The seventh thing to consider is flow. How condense should my writing be? This should tap back into the emotions you want to convey and evoke in the reader. Do I want my piece to be free-flowing. Is this a creative or factual piece? Should this piece flow like a book, poem or essay? Does this piece need to be more lax (like blogs) or serious (like academic papers)? Also, consider your writing style. Do you convey images and ideas better succinctly or descriptively. Acknowledge that we are all different, and naturally write differently than another person would.
The last thing to work on with honing in on your craft is...experiment, experiment, experiment! Explore topics you usually wouldn't...you might be surprised! You should start feeling uncomfortable. I play tennis, and the old joke is, to become a better tennis player, play with someone who is better than you! If you usually write poetry free verse, I would highly encourage trying to write with WAY more structure. I used to write all of my poems free verse, until I took a creative writing course in college, and was forced to write poetry with rhyme, meter and rhythm. My poetry has drastically changed, and improved a lot. This is because each poem has a different structure, feel and theme than the last. Experiment with word choice, punctuation and sentence length. You WILL feel uncomfortable, but push on! Change makes us grow. If you are a natural poet, try writing a factual piece. If you usually write factual pieces, try writing an opinion piece just to try something new! Also, consider your writing space. Try experimenting with the time of day you write. Our energy levels fluctuate throughout the day. Try writing both inside and outside. Write both in public (like a coffee shop) and in your home. Some people need more stimuli to concentrate, and this has been scientifically proven. If you listen to music when you write, really consider how it is influencing your writing. Is it affecting your theme, feel, word choice or structure? Experiment with different kinds of lighting. If you are always at your computer (like us bloggers for Tocsin Magazine are) think about when was the last time I wrote something physically, with a pencil and paper)? This can really affect your writing style. For example, I feel more comfortable writing poetry with a pen and paper. I have even noticed that lined paper versus a regular, blank, white sheet of paper affects my writing style. Using lined paper may help you as the writer consider line-length, syntax rhythm, meter, rhyme and structure more! Try writing the same poem three times; see what happens. Remember, the majority if writing is editing! Edit, edit, edit! And not just for grammar or misspelled words! Experimentation is key for growth. Practice makes perfect!