The two secrets to power writing — reciting, rewriting. by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
I’ve been a published writer and author for near seven decades now. I’ve got 50 books and thousands of articles under my belt. As a result people are constantly asking me the “secrets” of writing that resonates, captures readers and gets your message delivered. Alright, you’ve asked me quite enough… I’m ready to spill the beans…
Power writing Solution #1: Recite what you write.
When was the last time you needed to write something with real impact? Something that made your point, hammered it home, and did so in the most clear lucid way?
The correct answer is that the “last time” you did it was probably today, what with all the letters, advertisements, posters, reports, etc. you’ve got to write in your business.
Is this how you approached the task?
1) Bad attitude. You hate writing, or at least your’re doing a mighty good imitation of someone who does. Thus, you grumpily sit down at your computer, hold your nose, and resolve to race through this unwelcome task in record time.
2) The writing you produce under this “system” is just about as bad as bad writing can be. As a result it’s wordy, misspelled, redundant, diffuse… and that’;s just for openers.
3) Yuck! When you see what you’ve got, you gulp. It’s terrible, but fortunately not so terrible that other terrible writers and readers will ever notice. Declining standards shroud any number of problems…
Then take a good look in the mirror. Remember when you were young, idealistic in college, and that smarty-pants professor said you were either part of the problem… or part of the solution. Now you finally know what he meant: you can either keep producing the writing that has brought you so little fame and fortune… or you can apply Solution #1 to the problem.
To excite, recite.
When was the last time you wrote something, then read it aloud to yourself to see how it sounded and maybe to tweak it?
Answer? Well, let’s just put it this way, shall we? When was the last time you read anything you’d written aloud? Wasn’t it that time in Third Grade where you been forced by Mrs. Noroski, the personification of evil, to read a poem she coerced you to write in the first place? Thus, reciting takes its place just before having a root canal. And nothing’s going to change your mind, so there.
Methinks the lady (and the gent, too) doth protest too much.
Now hear this: you begged me for my secrets to power writing… and here’s one of the two most important. You’re just going to have move on, relegating that fiasco that constituted your one and only poetry reading to the recycle bin where it will surely find the oblivion which it so dearly merits.
The absolute necessity to read your prose… if you care that it gets read.
It’s time for brutal honesty. You write to be read, to influence, to motivate readers to take action. Reading aloud, reciting, helps you achieve this objective… and you’ll do it (stinker though it may be) because recitation means results… and improving results is what it takes to excel and prosper in our strenuous culture.
First, BIG relief item. There’s an audience of just one to these academy award winning performances: you! And unless you’re the culprit, no one need ever know that you do this whenever you want the best possible content and the best possible content presentation.
Here’s what needs to be in your kit for this project: a printer, marking pens, and a surface on which to spread this masterpiece in process. Now add gumption and you’re ready to go…
You’re looking for errors. Here are some places you’ll find them:
1) Line length. Good writers, that is to say persuasive writers know that less is more. Thus, the longer the sentence, the more likely the reader misses the point, and this will never do. If you find yourself taking another breath to get through the sentence in question, that sentence is too long. The optimum line length is 10-15 words, and you must cut sharply as a result… and so keep your readers.
2) Do the same severe pruning with your paragraphs. Short paragraphs are the best paragraphs; they should run from 6 to 8 lines.
3) Start as many sentences as possible with “you” (explicit or implicit). Whatever you write is written for just one person — the “you” who is your present reader. That person must have your complete and total focus, because if that “you” stops reading, it doesn’t matter what your message is, this all-important person isn’t going to do anything about it.
4) Use action verbs. Here’s the drill you want every reader to follow: your prose calls for action… your prose gets the reader to act. But this only happens when you take a machete to your passive verbs. They are torpid… impenetrable… movement killers. Just the way they should be and remain forever — that is if you want your prose cited in the “Guinness Book of Records” under the category “execrable”.
5) Make war on all purple passages. These you can easily spot when reading for, when uttering them you automatically start talking like the divine Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), which means in the sententious idiom of late 19th century France!
Your language should be clean, simple, efficient — you know, the way it isn’t now.
Solution # 2. Rewrite.
Wow, after scrutinizing your latest effusion per Solution #1, you’re surrounded by items that have been ruthlessly removed. What now? Simple; my next sure-fire writing insight, viz. that the most effective writers are the most conscientious rewriters. In other words, the ones who do not merely spew words on the page, but who do what’s necessary for maximum impact. This means you.
And so today, at first light, take your latest writing project and go out into the pristine dew of day to recite it. Sure your neighbors will deduce that you have finally gone mad… but the many new prospects and customers you’ll derive will leave them happy… leave you a paragon of prose… and richer.; oh, yes, a very great deal richer.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
About the Author
Now with near seven decades of a successful writing career, Dr. Lant is, he likes to say, in the prime of his prime. Thus does the “scribbling” life he commenced at age
5 continue. Sixty books. Thousands of articles. Untold radio and television programs;
worldwide recognition and enthusiasm, all of which culminated in the publication of
his autobiography, “A Connoisseur’s Journey, being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck and joy”. It was a book that screamed “classic!”, and he has
delighted in the nine literary awards that followed.
To get your copy go to www.drjeffreylant.com.