Wins All Round

The other day, I wrote a breakdown of tagging who is saying what in dialogue. You can find it here. What drove me to do it was not so much adult authors (though it works for you too), but more younger writers who are often given this or that format to write in class. Curriculums can be either vague or hyper specific on details like grammar, but it can be hard to understand why different techniques are used. Grammar and punctuation are tools, but so are action tags and yet in the three curriculums I've read, action tags get no love.

The earlier we get to introducing and using aspects of writing, the better. Even if we are adults, it can be frustrating when we read someone else's work, know that it flows better than our own, and yet not be able to articulate why. Looking at an aspect of writing and trying to put together a cogent explanation helps me break down my own understanding. As well, I hope that others find it useful as either a resource for themselves or for helping others.

One of the best ways to start down this path is to provide helpful feedback to the writing of others. It is easy to tear down any work, but if we look for what is not working and think about how it could be changed, we are both identifying problems and creating solutions. This will seep into our minds and with enough practise will improve our writing. The writing author also wins if we make sure our feedback is helpful and positive, that it takes into account the author's intention and where their writing is at. Build up, not tear down.

My one proviso: if you are giving feedback, find out what the author wants. Sometimes you will find quite a few issues. Unless the author is a bastion of mental strength, work out solutions for each, but focus on those two or three items that will make the most difference. Authors improve through writing more pieces, not endlessly cycling through the same story.

While no area is ever mastered, my next challenge is to find a new weakness in my work, and learn enough to share. When we find a weakness, it is an opportunity. Let's embrace them, let's give back. Winners all round, right?

- R Max Tillsley

Robert TillsleyComment