Mon 24 Dec 2007
A couple of weeks ago, Will Owen tagged me for an Aboriginal internet meme, whereby I have to list 8 answers to each of 8 questions. I started writing a lengthy post, but while I was trying to smooth out the formatting I had a hard drive failure on my near-new laptop and lost all my data, not to mention my entire Windows installation and all my programs. The draft post was among the casualties.
Yesterday though, Lauredhel of Hoyden About Town, among other blogs, tagged me for A roar for powerful words (original here), a considerably less time-consuming meme, where I just have to expose my three tips for good blog writing. I suppose then that this is certainly not the time to get stuck with writer’s block.
Before I begin though, I want to point out that I don’t really have any techniques as such. I just go for it, but I’ll only hit ‘publish’ (generally speaking) when I’m satisfied that it reads well. So I’ve had to reverse-engineer my method, and I’ve come up with the following.
1. Ignore what your English teacher told you
‘But’ at the beginning of a sentence, long sentences that lack a matrix verb, overusing the passive voice and so on. These aren’t necessarily bad, in fact they are so much a part of natural spoken English, that written language without them would simply be deficient. The point should be good writing, not correct writing, and even that takes for granted the entire debate over what correct means.
2. Revise, revise, revise
Read what you’ve written back to yourself every time you do a batch of editing. You don’t want to be left with stylistic or grammatical errors (in the linguistic sense) that result from, say, moving bits of sentences around. Read each sentence, each paragraph, and the entire thing together. If any single word or phrase causes you to do a double-take, fix it, and read it again. It might also help to let it sit and ferment for a while, so that when you come back you have fresh eyes.
Yeah, that’s terribly time-consuming and unfortunately I sometimes run out of time to do so much editing. Most of the time though, instead of posting something sub-standard, I leave it on the backburner¹, occasionally indefinitely.
3. Blog On!
Just go for it. Blogging should be fun, and never a chore. If it feels like a chore, you should perhaps reevaluate the reasons you decided to blog in the first place. Being unmotivated is naturally not very conducive to good writing. I know that’s obvious and sounds like a bit of a cop-out, but it’s true; there ain’t no point blogging if you don’t enjoy it. Clearly if you have an advertising blog it’s a different story, but then again, they’re an entirely different kettle of fish.
Time now then, to burden five other unsuspecting bloggers whom I regard as good writers to participate in this meme.
First up is Will, of Aboriginal Art & Culture, who tagged me for that 8 answers meme that suffered at the hands of a hard drive failure. Then, Alejna of Collecting Tokens, who loves a good meme. MrsChili of A Teacher’s Education, who’ll likely disagree with my sentiments about ignoring one’s English teacher. I would like to tag my mali, Joe Blythe who occasionally writes for Transient Languages & Cultures, but as he should be writing a PhD dissertation instead, and since TLAC isn’t a very memetic sort of blog, I’ll certainly expect him to ignore it. Lastly, I’ll tag Claire from Anggarrgoon, who is probably the best Australianist linguist blogger around.
And, as I’m usually the sort of person to ignore these on sight, I won’t be at all offended if any of these five do so too.
¹Backburner: a barbecue metaphor²?
²Just though of another tip for good writing: creative use of stylistic techniques, like footnotes.
³Unless the footnote lacks an antecedent.
4Or contains infinitely recursive footnoting4.