Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Writing Journal: Unreality Bites #7

I'm planning to participate in Fully Booked's Graphic/Fiction Contest and this is a peek at my writing process.

I was browsing through the Wizards of the Coast website and I saw an old link to Recommended Books on the Craft of Writing. Some writers are skeptical when it comes to books (or even podcasts or blog entries) that teach you how to write because each person's writing process is different. My perspective on it is that while that's true, it never hurts to read a book on writing: you can decide for yourself whether this is applicable to your situation or not. Of course having said that, nothing teaches you better than actually attempting to write. If one spends all their time reading books on writing but doesn't get any actual writing done, it's a futile endeavor isn't it? Right now, my mentality is better to attempt and fail rather than to be overwhelmed by the fear of getting it right the first time. And boy have I failed a couple of times: getting rejected in the school paper's literary section, getting rejected in Philippine Speculative Fiction, getting rejected by my peers in our Creative Writing workshops, getting rejected in Vin's dragon anthology, etc. But I like to think that I'm still learning so useful criticism is always welcome (useful not in the sense of "you suck!" but rather "I don't like it because...").

Anyway, as far as writing books go, I've only managed to read two: Stephen King's On Writing and Terry Brooks's Sometimes the Magic Works. However, a more important tome I think is one that dictates the writing style/format you should use. What's popular here is The Elements of Style 4th Ed., by Strunk and White (I remember writer Danton Remoto complaining at how he found the book at the fashion section of the bookstore), although it's not the only authority. There's The Chicago Manual of Style for example. What's important however is to be consistent and find out what style your publisher prefers. As lauded as The Elements of Style is, however, I want to ask how many have actually taken the time to read it cover to cover? I'll be the first to admit, I haven't. My copy's missing right now and I'll probably need to purchase a new one and I remember going through the first few pages of the book but never finishing it. I'm also surprised at how many people quote the book but never applies its teachings. I mean look at my first sentence in this paragraph: normally, people wouldn't put an 's at the end of Terry Brooks's name the way I do. They'd leave it as Brooks'. But from my meager knowledge of The Elements of Style, the latter shouldn't be the case. I just find it bizarre that my grade school and high school teachers told me to follow Strunk and White yet when it comes to the actual English lesson on style and grammar, they're following a different format.

The key to writing style however is consistency. Whether you follow your English teacher's lessons or Strunk and White, just stick to one, in the same way that we don't mix American English and European English even if both are valid languages. But at the end of the day, this doesn't need to be in the initial draft. You can work on consistency during your editing process. Just be aware of it, however.

1 comment:

oui said...

Best advice from Strunk & White's book:

"Omit needless words."

Those are the three most powerful words strung up in a sentence. XD