Consistently Composing Creative Crystal Clear Communications Compassionately

Aside from filling my alliteration quota for the month, this leads us to one of the most important skills a writer should develop. It is the writer’s job to communicate their ideas clearly and without ambiguity. If the reader doesn’t understand something, it is the writer’s fault. This means any literate person is qualified to critique the writer’s work.

I’m hoping you might ask, how does a writer practice this essential skill? Writing blogs is an excellent source of practice. A writer should always be writing, even if it’s outside the type of writing they want to publish. In addition to blogs, I used a very unconventional method of honing my skills. I started flame wars. A flame war is a grand argument you have with a group of people over the internet. I used to post regularly to a forum dedicated to the underground heavy metal scene in California. It was the sort of place where nothing was sacred other than Slayer and Guinness. If your arguments were weak and your grammar flawed, you got the verbal beat down. It was the perfect spot for a writer to hone his or her critical thinking and argumentative prose. But it was not for the light hearted.

Luckily, there’s several other avenues where knowing the difference between Goth Metal, Black Metal, and Death Metal isn’t required. Critique groups, of course. I’ll talk more about those another week. But any place that you can write and have others review your work and communicate back with you, can provide the opportunity to practice. Forums where you write tutorials, or engage in a debate, can help.

When writing such posts, go back and proof read your work. Look for redundant sentences or phrases. You don’t want redundant phrases. Like that. Consider how each sentence you write could be misinterpreted. A sentence like, "The man bought his girl friend a new puppy and she had him fixed," can be interpreted multiple ways.

I have a habit of using “just,” “very,” and “really,” too often. So I just go through and really delete the very few unnecessary words I find. I’ll say that again. I go through and delete unnecessary words. The word “really” is supposed to strengthen the word that follows it. But I find that it’s used so often these days, it actually accomplishes the opposite.

In conclusion, remember two things. Clarity is one of the most important skills a writer must strive to master. It is also a skill that can not be mastered. You will always have room for improvement. And two, always remember it is the writer’s job to communicate clearly. If a reader doesn’t understand, they either represent a greater number of potential readers that will equally struggle, or they are an outlier. Be careful about assuming the latter too soon. Never argue with a reader who doesn’t understand your writing. If they didn’t understand it, then you, the writer, failed to reach them. From this perspective, they are always right in their criticism of your work.

Ghost Writing’s for Suckas

As a writer, you’re going to meet people looking for Ghost Writers. I think most of us know why to avoid this situation. If you haven’t yet encountered this, I’ll explain. The legitimate use of the term is when a famous person wants to lend their name, or brand, to a book, but don’t have the time or ability to do it themselves. The illusion when you buy a celebrity’s book is that you’re reading the words from the celebrity themselves. This is sort of why celebrity reality shows are popular. They’re just as scripted(with some exceptions), but can massive cut quality costs in hiring good writers, camera teams, and well paid actors. Then they pass off low quality television as “reality,” and people still buy it because they like the brand.

Celebrities and the people that handle them, probably pay their Ghost Writers well. And if you can get the work, it might be a fun experience. However, the other 99% of the time that people use this word, they’re using it as a scam--though usually not intentionally. There are many wannabes that have great ideas and think that ideas sell. They do not. Think of the most famous singers in the world. They are not famous because they’re good at singing. They’re famous because they have an amazing and powerful marketing team, “backup” singers, and trained studio engineers that can autotune a recording of a piano falling down a flight of stairs into The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Anyone old enough to remember when Milli Vanilli got caught lip syncing? Their careers were over. But notice that no one cared who the real singers were? It wasn’t music that made them famous. It was a colossal marketing machine behind them.

Now some people who don’t understand this reality might think that their ideas are so great, that it will make them famous even without marketing. Maybe they think that investors sit around looking for that one story that’s so incredibly amazing that as soon as they hear it, they’re going to open up their pocket books and invest. Now, the music biz and the writers biz are radically different. Writing really is all about the words rather than the image of the writer. Eventually this great idea is going to have to be put down and presented in a medium appropriate for consumption. This is the point where the idea haver should get to writing and be prepared for the long haul. But the wannabe isn’t patient enough for that. So instead of investing the time and effort into turning their ideas into great stories, they decided to find Ghost Writers to do 99% of the work and split the profits with. This is the equivalent of driving someone to a job interview in exchange for them splitting their pay check for a year with you if they get hired.

Maybe you’re a wannabe reading this thinking, “Yeah, but my idea really is good. And I’d totally tell the writer what to put all the way so I’d be working too. In fact, I even have the whole story outlined already. I just need someone to actually write it. It’s really funny. It’s a true story. Everyone I tell this story to thinks it’s awesome.”

I wrote my first novel when I was 14. That would have been in 1987 to give some reference. My novel was about a young boy that went to a special kind a school for wizards. His teachers taught him how to brew potions and cast spells and what not. The school wasn’t very safe for him, however. He had a mysterious enemy that was always sending henchman after him to kill him. So, why is Harry Potter a household name and Maxwell Silver is not?

Well, for one, JK Rowling and I are not the only ones with this identical idea for a story. I’m sure thousands of writers have come up with this exact idea long before I ever started writing, what I thought at the time, was an original story. For Rowling, she was able to take a classic story, write it in a very clear and easy to read way, and build characters that were interesting to follow. Writing well is so important for a good story that I will even go as far as to say that the idea for the story itself is close to meaningless.