Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Responsible Writer

Writing Wednesday

I've heard some people describe writing in terms of a dream-like state and argue that it's a purely artistic, right-brain endeavor. I find writing requires both brains: while I'm envisioning a scene with my right brain, I'm searching for the right words with my left.

Worrying about which side of the brain may seem like a quibble, but it matters because writing is a conscious act. And that means it is something for which you as the author are responsible.

You're responsible for your words

You've got no excuse for lazy, imprecise writing. In conversation you can say, "It's like, you know ..." and if your listeners nod, they probably do know what you mean. But you have no such luxury with the written word.

The responsible writer has no place for cliches, excess adverbs, or thoughtless constructions (see "Barely Flooded").

You are responsible for your characters

The people you chose to write about should feel like people, not stereotypes or cardboard cut-outs.

You are responsible for your plot

Please don't try to pass off tired, retreaded stories. Step up to the challenge of finding something to add to the conversation.

"Is that the best you can do?"

That's the question the responsible writer constantly asks of him or herself.

What else do you think a responsible writer should do?

Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.
Image: Simon Howden /


Paul West said...

Rewrite, rewrite, revise and rewrite again. That's responsible writing too.

Scott said...


It's one of the hardest things to do, finishing a story or novel. I don't know of an art form that takes as long to complete. But we owe it to ourselves and our readers (even if nobody else reads it but our families) to finish the work. We also owe it to our characters to not leave them hanging.

That's heavy on my mind lately, since I'm kind of blocked on a current project. But I'll get through it. I almost always have before.