by Patrick Del Rosario
Get It Down First, Get It Right Second
At First, Just Write When the muse is striking, or even if it’s just sitting on your shoulder yawning, just write. Go with the flow and don’t pay much attention to what your hands are doing. Gather momentum and go. Let your mind be a baby and wander where it will.
Go Back and Listen If you are a writer of any mettle, you must know that the poetic qualities of prose are most important. One may think that readers don’t listen, but words bounce around in a reader’s cranium – a vast acoustic chamber that could host choirs – just as if they are spoken. The rhythm and alliteration of your words are so important. Read your stuff aloud to help yourself choose the right word.
Beware the Thesaurus If a word doesn’t seem to fit and you can’t fathom a better one, you might peruse Roget’s, but you better be careful. A thesaurus can make you sound stupid and out of touch as easily as it can do the opposite. If you pick a word from a thesaurus, look it up in a dictionary before you dare use it. Having done so, you will probably search for another more appropriate.
Just Forget It If the sentence or the piece isn’t working, leave it. Or dump it. You have put down what you want to say; you may just need a different mood, a long walk, or a hit of gin to give it verve or eloquence or meaning. Then go back to it. If you’ve dumped it, well, go after “the thing of it” again – like a badger.
“Le Mot Juste” (“The Right Word” in French) Gustave Flaubert supposedly would spend days quibbling over a single sentence until he got the words just right. You and I are writing all kinds of things from novels to sales letters to web content. We don’t always have the luxury of hours quibbling with a word. Still, having the right word is most important. In fact, Mark Twain said so in this way: "The difference between the almost-right word & the right word is really a large matter. It's the difference between the lightning-bug & the lightning." There you go. Write right. It’s easier with the background told above.
One Last Thought on Choosing the Right Word
If you don’t read poetry, even if you’re a marketing writer, you’re doing your writing skills and your clients a disservice. Read poetry, no matter what kind of writer you are, or intend to be. If you’re new to poetry, your soul will be smitten (if you are really a writer) by “The Love Song of J. Alred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. A beautiful classic, it offers many examples of choosing just the right words and wringing all the meaning out of each in a sublime and beautiful way.
Patrick Del Rosario is part of the team behind Open Colleges, one of Australia’s pioneer and leading providers of great Business management courses and Open Colleges Human resources courses. When not working, Patrick enjoys blogging about career and business. Patrick is also a photography enthusiast and is currently running a photography studio in the Philippines.