Writing Techniques

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Writing techniques include everything from getting ideas while sitting at a street-side coffee shop, to taking 45-minute breaks from the keyboard, to getting up at 3 AM and padding sleepily across to the computer. Some people have a hard time getting started. Some won't leave a sentence alone until they think it's perfect, taking an entire day to get through a paragraph. Others tear through five pages in less than an hour, not realizing that they've repeated themselves over and over and over and wandered there and back again without making much of a point.

Writing Techniques: Gathering Steam

Most often, however, writing techniques are not a question of where to find ideas, what to say, or crafting language. "Just get it down on paper," Random House editor Maxwell Perkins once said. "Just get it down on paper, and then we'll see what to do about it." This, of course, is easier said than done.

As the one-time famous cockroach Archy said of his own writing techniques in 1933, as transcribed by Don Marquis in Archy's Life of Mehitabel, "I never think at all when I write, nobody can do two things at the same time, and do them both well." That's one solution. (Archy's actual technique was to punch the keys of the typewriter by jumping on them one at a time. He couldn't manage capital letters.) It's true that reading what you've written as you write can slow you down tremendously.

If you concentrate too much on finding the right word, for example, it might well elude you. Finish the paragraph or the page, come back after doing the laundry or taking a walk, and the word might be sitting there waiting for you. Whatever works is what's important. After all, Mark Twain remarked, "the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug."


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