Friday, April 9, 2010

Conscious Writing

by Dawn Goldberg

I talk a lot about having a writer's filter, the idea that you start to look at the world through lenses of words. Just like that old saying of looking at the world through rose-colored glasses that make the world look pink and rosy, having a writer's filter allows you to look at the world of words. You see words all around you. You don't just notice the delivery van as you're driving to the bank. You actually take the time to look at the tag line and analyze it. With a writer's filter, you find yourself constantly going, "Do those words work? Do I like how they're put together? Do I understand? How did the writer do that? Would I do it differently?"

It's that last piece that I really want to focus on now: How did the writer put those words together? What was the effect? Would that work for me? What you're doing is going from using your writer's filter as you view the world to becoming a conscious writer.

The writer's filter is one of the characteristics of an true writer. The conscious writer is the ultimate level you want to achieve beyond just wearing the filter. Here's what that might look like.

  • You're writing a short story, and you decide you don't want to have the typical, Pollyanna happy ending. So you look through a Stephen King book of short stories and review the endings.
  • Your self-help book falls down a bit in the middle. You feel confident about the first third and the ending, but you're not sure what you need in the middle. You take a look at other self-help books and examine the structure.
  • You need a catchy title for your E-zine article. You start paying attention to the dozens of E-zines you get and notice which ones you open, solely because of the title.
Here's how you actually write consciously.

1. Review the writing you're analyzing. This may look like reading, although you don't want to simply read. However, it's really hard to analyze without reading, so just read it so you can shut that part of your brain up that thinks it must read the words put in front of it. Read it once.

2. Go back to the writing again, and this time, (in whatever method works for you - bullets, outline, storyboarding, mindmapping...) dissect the writing. If you're looking at introductions, focus on the introductions. If the whole plot structure is what you're looking at, then outline (or whatever) the plot.

3. Use the analysis from #2 as a model for your own writing. Is the model for a great introduction one short question, followed by a longer descriptive sentence, ending with a short, snappy sentence? Then, write your piece with that as a model: one short question, longer descriptive sentence, and a short, snappy sentence.

4. Give yourself some time in between steps 2 and 3. Then go back and review what you've written. It might follow the structure, outline, or method of the work you're using as a model. It might not. What's most important is that you're happy with the writing.

You're not cheating, by the way. And it's not plagiarizing either (unless you're actually copying words that someone else wrote). The idea is that you're looking at what works and seeing what you can learn from it. The point is that it got you writing. The bigger point is that it got you thinking about crafting your writing, very deliberately.

Dawn Goldberg brings life to words and writing - and helps others through their writing and publishing journey. Sign up for Fuel For Your Writing Journey at Write Well U ( and get the Nifty Guide for Writers checklist free.

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