Photo: John Thomas
Writing involves descriptions. You can’t just drop characters in a formless room and have them, say, swinging swords at each other without interacting with their environment.
That said, you can’t just wax lyrical about the surroundings and forget that you have a story to tell. Personally, I fall into the white-room category, often choosing to err on the side of too little description.
No matter what you choose, though, you should know that there’s a way to instantly spice up your writing, and that’s the use of concrete language. This concept is fairly new to me, and it’s changed the way I look at descriptions, so perhaps it could help you as well.
Photo: Miguel Henriques
“You look like an idiot.”
That was the first time I’d tried public speaking as an adult (well, I was barely an adult at eighteen), and a member of the audience told me that straight to my face. Harsh? Maybe. But maybe you’d think the same after I give you some context.
Photo: Damian Zaleski
I was a stringer for the national newspapers once. My job was to pick up any assignments that the full-time team couldn’t handle, which amounted anywhere from one story every fortnight to two articles a week. That meant that my income was unstable at best, but what made up for it was the lack of daily commute or morning meetings, and all this before the digital nomad movement.
Photo: Priscilla Du Preez
My earliest memories of involve lots of books strewn around the house. I suspect that it was my parents’ way of getting me to read. If it was, it definitely worked, and it’s probably the reason why I write for a living today.
Of course, after graduating from Enid Blyton and R.L. Stine, I found myself flipping through the Zig Ziglars, Dale Carnegies, and Napoleon Hills. As a sixteen-year-old, I never could relate to the lessons in those books, so for me, self-improvement was only something I’d read for fun.
But when I found myself alone and crying in Thailand more than a decade later, a snippet from How To Stop Worrying And Start Living popped right up from the recesses of my mind, like a piece of turd that refuses to be flushed down the toilet. It was a father’s letter to his son, and it went something like this:
Photo: Ryan Snaadt
It doesn’t matter if you’re on a magazine’s payroll or if you’re helping out a friend of a friend with his website copy—as a writer, you’ll need to answer to somebody for your work, more often than not.
The thing is, these relationships do sometimes come with a bit of feedback, and some people are better at giving it than others.
Trust me, it’s no fun reading an e-mail with a list of things you’ve done wrong, even when you put your heart and soul into it. But receiving feedback and amending your work doesn’t need to be a helpless process. You, too, have a say as a writer.