by Al Kalar
Writing is easy, “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” – Red Smith
Know your language and its requirements. Grammar and spelling. If you flunked your language classes in school, it’s time to go back to school or hire a ghostwriter.
If you don’t know your language requirements, this blog isn’t going to help you learn. That’s another huge body of knowledge that is best addressed by educators and schools.
Why are you writing this? If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you’ve arrived and neither will your reader.
If you’re writing a non-fiction work, are you doing a text book, a “how-to”, a collection of art or photography, a biography or memoir, a political piece, or whatever? What information are you trying to convey? Do you want to inform, persuade, entertain, or set the record straight? Each of these things involves a goal. When you set up your project, you must know your goals and build the project in such a way as to meet the goals you set. Without goals, you may go wandering off after an odd piece of information and lose your audience in the process.
If you’re writing fiction, you probably intend to entertain or challenge your audience. You may even be pushing your own agenda under the guise of fiction. Whatever your reason, make sure you know it and that you’re not fooling yourself into thinking you really intend to do something else.
What else am I missing?
I came up writing fiction. It’s what I know best. I do write non-fiction, mostly technical, but no book length stuff past a corporate procedures manual. I’ve been published in both venues. So, with that in mind, I’ll probably do a better job of talking about the fiction side of things.
However, non-fiction writers can benefit from the art of story telling. One of the best ways to convey information or to persuade is to tell a story. Politicians know this well, at least the ones who win more often do.
Also, there are hundreds of elements that can go into a non-fiction work. Each project is different and can involve a different set of elements.
For instance, a formal report to management may consist of an Executive Summary, followed by facts, figures, and conclusion, followed by a more lengthy summary. In other words, “Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.” A history book won’t look anything like the management report, nor will a book on hydroponics gardening.
Okay, okay. Sticking to fiction is a cop-out. Trying to cover all of the elements of non-fiction writing would be a huge task because of the many forms and methods involved. So, I’m wimping out and focusing mainly on fiction. But I’ll try to keep non-fiction in mind. If I don’t, by all means, yell at me.
So, with apologies to the non-fiction crowd, let’s look at the elements of a good story:
The basic parts of a novel are:
- Development of characters and plot
- Arc (climax)
- Solution (or resolution).
Short stories do the same thing, but in a very compressed format.
Looks simple, doesn’t it? It is, if you don’t lose track of what you’re doing. We’ll look into these elements in detail as we progress and hopefully figure out how to stay on track.