With all that is going on in the world, it is still exam season so today's post will look at three key tips for academic/critical writing and genre fiction/children's writing.
In my experience, when you are under pressure it is easy to forget that language is a tool of communication.
This isn't meant to be condescending, I know the points below are very obvious, we've all known about them since we were kids, but panic and fear are powerful disrupters.
Remember that you, the writer, are in charge - so boss it!
Know where you are going: tell the story, steer your reader through your argument.
In a story, you should always know who is doing what, where, when and ultimately why. As a writer, you take the reader through each scene. We often talk of 'narrative drive' to describe the way the reader and the story are always on the move. Every scene goes somewhere.
An essay is also dynamic - you take the reader on a journey through your argument, pointing out the supporting evidence and disposing of counterarguments. The more complex your argument is, the more you need to guide the reader so that they can see your thinking. Every paragraph goes somewhere: each one advances the argument until you come to the conclusion which is your destination. ( Use signpost words correctly - 'therefore,' 'firstly,''finally' etc they are functional, not decorative and help your reader follow you.)
Be clear. Use the right words to say what you mean.
In writing a novel it is easy to fall in love with language and produce beautifully written quasi-poetic descriptions, profound and cleverly worded moments of introspection. These can make the story hard to follow if they break the narrative flow. The wrong kind of language can sabotage your intentions. Your reader should always know what you mean.
In an exam essay, it is easy to lose your head and try to impress with over-complex language and sentences that mangle your argument along with your syntax. Use whichever words help you make your argument most clearly and don't embellish sentences with clever sounding vocabulary if such words don't help to make your point.
Be concise. Give the reader enough detail to believe your story or be convinced by your argument. Enough is enough.
Too much descriptive writing, background detail and information can make a story boring, too little and your scenes will be unconvincing. You need to find the sweet spot where you vividly evoke the scene without bogging it down in minutiae.
In an essay give enough evidence ( correctly cited) to make your point. Once it is made, move on to the next. You need to find the sweet spot where you support your case without getting bogged down in providing masses of evidence for just one element of your argument.