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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Different Sorts of Writing (Mailbox)

Different kinds of writing.   

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Friday.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. Project 2nd weekly mailbox will begin this week.]   

Lou asks:

Do your writing tips meaningfully differ for different sorts of writing? Journalistic, poetry, script writing, etc.

My reply:

Totes yo!

I mention this in my disclaimery stuff. However, it's not as if I expect more than two or three of my readers ever went spelunking far enough into the hidden bowels of this blog to find it. Writing About Writing is mostly about creative writing, and usually about fiction.

There is a lot of overlap in every kind writing. Vocabulary, structure, imagery. I've yet to meet a capable poet who couldn't write a damned fine sentence. I've never even heard of a (serious) journalist who lacked the ability to construct a compelling paragraph. Every fiction writer who has ever taken on an expository subject, wrote quite well–if perhaps with a somewhat florid prose.

But there are differences too. If I were hired as a tech writer and I wrote how I blogged, I'd be looking for a new job before lunch. Journalism doesn't worry about the interaction between character development and theme. You have to let go and let the director decide how to block and emote when you write a play or a screenplay. These different ways of writing have their own skill sets. And while there is some overlap that makes one writer competent at other writing styles, there is enough divergence to easily see the difference between competent and exceptional.

Some advice would stay the same especially linguistic advice. Don't dangle your modifiers. Maintain your tense unless there's a reason not to. Don't go overboard with cliches. Other advice would be like arriving in Bizarro world. (You do NOT use concrete description of scene to describe the setting in a play or screenplay, but it's one of the most important parts of fiction.) In formal writing (higher-brow journalism or tech writing) it would be egregious to write how you spoke, but in blogging or some more folksy fiction, that is the preferred style.

Many of these differences are so huge they are not even "genre" per se. They are disciplinary. Chances are if you're on a college campus, the school of journalism is not  even in the same BUILDING as Creative Writing. And you have different degrees for C.W. and expository writing. If it were all the same, we'd all be getting a "Writing" degree and crammed into the same gigantic lecture hall.

Lots of writers move across these various disciplines, but there are often some growing pains–especially if they don't think they'll have to change. Though on the other hand some really fucking awesome books have come from writers who brought their strengths from other writing types into their fiction. My favorite example of this is the travel writer who wrote a fiction book in almost exactly the travel writing style: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

So yes, many many big difference, even though there is some dovetail.

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