Friday 26 September 2014

Learning to Write

I have blogged a few times about the (slow) progress of my book. However, what is really clear to me is how much I am learning from the process.

There is the obvious stuff, which anyone who writes seriously will know about: the ease with which one can fill time with not writing, or with writing related activities (but not writing) for example.

But this week I had a very specific task to do, and I did it: that was to write a glossary. There are two main reasons for this.  The first is to make sure that I am quite clear (both in my own mind and in my writing) precisely what I mean when I use a particular key word or phrase.  

The second is to help with editing: that is, to make sure that every time I use the word or phrase, I mean the same thing; and also every time I mean that thing, I use the same word or phrase.

That may sound obvious, but in fact it is not how I have tended to write. And that has been an interesting thing to learn. For example, I use the word 'story' a lot in the book. But I also use the word 'narrative'. And I switch between them quite freely. 

On reflection, the reason I do that is to avoid repetition; to make the text more interesting to read. But in fact it makes the text confusing. The reader may wonder if I use 'narrative' to mean something different from 'story.' It introduces a distraction.

I blame my education: I studied lots of literature along the way; and when one is writing in that environment, one tends to look for the novel and interesting way to express something, and either to consult a thesaurus or construct a mental one in order to avoid using the same word twice in quick succession. But writing for literary effect and writing for quick and easy comprehension are not the same, as my excellent writing coach, Andrew Derrington, has patiently helped me to learn.

The other interesting thing about compiling the glossary is that it has really made me re-think where I am up to with my ideas. Listing the fifteen or so key concepts and defining them has produced a very concise summary of my ideas, and helps me to see how they have developed over the years. In fact, in some cases, I am abandoning words or phrases that I have used throughout the book, as they don't clearly express what I now think.

So whilst publication still feels some way off, I can confidently assert that I am making progress.

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