Questions and Answers About Writing – 2

From my work on Yahoo!Answers, here is a second list of questions from folks who are working on various writing projects, along with my responses:

Question #1 – Can I write my novel in the third person and still add good detail?

Answer to question #1

Writing from a third-person point of view is standard for many excellent authors. As you gain experience in your craft, you will discover that your point-of-view selection may vary depending on the type of piece you are writing and what you intend to accomplish with it.

My suggestion is to write a chapter in third person and then try it another way just to get a feel for the difference. Personally, I like both the third-person and the first-person points of view. Experimenting with them will make you a better writer.

Unquestionably, you can achieve the same depth of character development and information delivery in the third person that you can with other points of view. The important thing is to establish the point of view you want to use and then stick to it throughout the piece.

No matter which point-of-view approach you decide upon, the key is consistency. You should think through each sentence carefully to ensure that everything you say is observable from the vantage point you have chosen. Readers take even minor variances from the established viewpoint as a violation of the contract between author and reader. If you make reasonable rules, readers will readily accept them. If you violate those rules, many people will stop reading.

This explanation of point of view is far from complete. On the Internet, you will find articles about point of view that will help you understand this complicated and important aspect of fiction writing.

Question #2 – Can a piece of expository writing be fictional or satirical?

I have to write an expository essay that informs, explains, analyzes, or sheds light on a subject of my choice. I want to write something along the lines of surviving during a zombie apocalypse. Would that be okay?

Answer to Question #2

An expository essay explains something, analyzes someone’s work, or describes a process. It contains little or no personal opinion and focuses primarily on facts.

Although expository writing is nonfiction, you might be able to get away with doing something more creative, depending on the objective of the exercise. Writing a fictional piece and trying to pass it off as expository is too risky to do without obtaining permission from your teacher, but if the point is simply to improve your writing, perhaps you might be allowed to deviate from the prescribed format. Even satire, although acceptable for creative nonfiction, would be a departure from traditional expository writing, and embarking along that route would require obtaining approval beforehand.

If the principal purpose of the assignment is to help you learn to write an expository piece, you’ll need to do it as instructed. In order to stay with your zombie-apocalypse topic, perhaps you could find some movies or books about zombies and base your essay on an aspect of the directors’ or writers’ approaches to portraying fantastic events in real-life settings. Putting a creative or literary spin on your topic might work, although it will depend on the open-mindedness of your teacher.

Question #3 – Is my reason to write good enough?

OK, I’m just a 13-year-old child, and I like to use my imagination a lot! I actually have a complicated life and am easily bored, so every time I go to sleep, I listen to music and imagine things like scenes and stuff. I had an idea to write about common situations (my stories are pretty much cliché), because I imagine things I enjoy, like vampires, romances, and stuff, so imagining and writing has become my habit. Is this a good enough reason to write?

Answer to question #3

Yes, definitely, your reason for writing is fine. The truth is that any reason is a good one to venture into the fascinating world of writing. Writing will develop you in lots of ways, and in the end, even if you don’t become a professional writer, you will be a better writer, and that skill will serve you wonderfully for the rest of your life. Aside from helping you become a sound thinker and communicator, writing will give you temperance, which is a difficult quality to attain.

Writing about vampires and other romantic themes that you consider mundane does not mean that your writing will be boring, but rather that you seek to express those topics in new and artistic ways. Thirteen is a great age to begin the writing journey, so be encouraged, write whatever comes to your mind, and learn the magical skill of editing your writing so that it becomes the work of art you want it to be.

Question #4 – How much does reading help with writing?

I’m a freshman in college, and I would like to improve my writing skills for everything from essays to short stories. I don’t read much, probably twice a week on average, about 25 pages per sitting. I do read articles and assignments for classes, but I don’t often pick up a novel or book. How much am I losing out by not reading?

Answer to question #4

Becoming a good writer requires both writing and reading. The two activities work together to increase your consciousness of the written word. Many excellent readers are not good writers, because they have not gone through the process of penning and editing their own thoughts. Reading, alone, will not make you a writer.

That said, no writer develops fully without reading. Just as young basketball players must play basketball and watch good players in order to improve, aspiring writers must practice their craft (write) and observe the work of others (read) in order to advance. If you want to improve your writing skills, you have to write and read aplenty. No shortcuts exist. Only those who do the work (read, write, and rewrite) will excel.

Question #5 – How would overly biased writing negatively affect a persuasive essay?

I have strong opinions and sometimes am surprised at what I have written. Should I go with my initial reaction or change it to make it more acceptable for my readers?

Answer to question #5

A well-written essay is rarely overly biased, because the process of writing, rewriting, thinking, rethinking, editing, and reediting naturally reins in extreme positions and softens harsh language that appear in early drafts. Writers who understand the writing process produce finished pieces that are balanced.

Writers who do not put their work through the filters and tempering vats of the editing process, however, succeed only in convincing their readers that they are hotheaded and rarely draw anyone to their points of view. Hard work on the mechanics of writing and editing renders an unbiased piece most of the time.


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