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[TMF] 20 Moonpointer Writing Tips

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  • NamoAmituofo
    ... 20 Moonpointer Writing Tips The below writing tips are useful for various forms of writing, especially creative Dharma writing:- (Written for The
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 10, 2003

      20 Moonpointer Writing Tips

      The below writing tips are useful for various forms of writing, especially creative Dharma writing:-

      (Written for The Moonpointer Fellowship : TMF is an Online Discussion Group for Buddhist Writers. Set up to share and encourage creative writing, we welcome constructive mutual-critiquing for the continual improvement of each other's efforts. To join, send a brief introduction of yourself to moon@...)

      "Words of truth, are like fingers pointing at the moon, which represents the truth. Thus, words are not the truth itself. This does not mean we should abandon words. Instead, they have to be used skillfully to benefit, to point the way to the truth." -Stonepeace

      #1 Write Interestingly & Creatively

      You should have substance- a genuinely interesting idea to share with your target audience. It should always be fresh and clear. Otherwise, the reader might feel cheated of his time and faith in you. Don't say the same old things. If you must, say them in a creative new way. "Reinvent" the wheel if really necessary- but reinvent it really well or it might not be worth doing at all. If what you have to write about is dry by nature, it is your job to nourish it the mositure of creativity. Sometimes we focus too much on writing "correctly" and forget to be interesting. Even if what you write is totally correct, it is totally "wrong" if it does not interest the reader. Remember there is a difference between being creative and being interesting. The first is using a new approach and the latter an approach that interests the reader.

      #2 Write Clearly

      This is of course, common sense- but we tend to write clearly enough for ourselves and not for others. Always bear in mind the capacity of the reader. If you are unsure, the safest bet is to always write for the man on the street. To connect to the man on the street, go to the streets. Browse magazines and observe contemporary culture, listen to the talk of the town. A happening writer is one who writes about what is happening- but with fresh perspectives and intepretations.

      #3 Write Short & Sweet

      It is always better to be short and sweet than long and sweet as readers can be impatient. If your article is long, make sure it is really sweet throughout! If you have to be lengthy, try snipping up your article into distinctly digestible nuggets with as much self-contained reference as possible- so that the reader can browse through at random to read subjects of interest. Paragraphs and sub-headings can be used. In this age of information overload and short attention span, this is the age of short and sweet blogging! (See blogspot at end.)
      I call this the Ockham's Razor of Writing. Ockham's Razor is the theory that if given options of a more complex and a simple way of understanding or stating a point or truth, the simpler way should be adhered to- as "entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.'' To put this simply, remember that the extra is extra, the redundant is redundant. Make every word, and even punctuation mark count. Use simple terms whenever possible- what is heavy to write is also heavy to read. For example, using "He was very mad" can be more effectively to the point than "That guy became incredibly infuriated."

      #4 Write Sub-headings

      If paragraphs without sub-headings are used, the first line should be as interesting as what a sub-heading would have been. Sub-headings should be as interesting yet accurate as possible. Over-fanciness loses the reader as he does not know what to expect. The use of unparellel sub-headings though interesting, can lose the reader when he quickly browses through, failing to clearly know the topics covered. I challenge the traditional form of the novel which has no sub-headings within chapters. Well, why not? It can also serve as a useful reference point when the reader wants to return to it later. Partitioned articles also look a lot less intimidating than ones which just seem to rant on and on without sections.

      #5 Write Each Line Intriguingly

      Each line should be interesting enough to urge the reader to read the next line, which is in turn interesting enough for the reader to read the next... In this way, you won't lose the reader's attention at any point. Keep the reader guessing, intrigued all the way to the very end- even if there is no twist in the tale. This is especially important in long articles.

      #6 Write a Story

      It is always more engaging to tell a theory in a narrative story form, with dialogue and scenes. This brings to life what might otherwise be a deadpan lecture. Give the abstract concrete examples.

      #7 Write Yourself Into It

      Perhaps the easiest way to write passionately is to write yourself into whatever you are writing. Speak strongly for for beliefs or even your doubts. This is especially effective when you are writing to someone you know personally- who might be interested to know more about you.

      #8 Write Others Into It

      Another easy way to engage readers is to write them into whatever you are writing. If you are explaining a distant issue, bring it closer by involving how it implicates them. Tell them clearly what's in it for them. Engage the reader by asking them questions- make them reflect. Have a personal dialogue with them and make them have inner dialogues with themselves.

      #9 Write Without Culture

      While it is at times important to use cultural or contemporary contexts in writings, try to minimise it if you are writing for a general audience. For example, don't use the term "X-box" if you are writing for a total non-gamer. (Those who don't know what is an "X-box", well... see what I mean?) Use as much general yet modern references as possible. When you have to use "difficult" or foreign cultural terms, try to give a brisk but fairly accurate definition of it. This can be done in parenthesis that follow the word or weaved skillfully into the text just before or shortly after the term was used. Remember that if readers browse through your writing and spot about 3 or 5 crucial "big" terms they can't understand, they might not even start reading, thinking it is probably about something they can't understand or relate to. Missing out crucial definitions halfway through your article also lets the reader down, making him lost in the middle of nowhere.

      #10 Write Beautifully

      Here, I refer not to the way text is used, but to the way the text is laid out visually for the reader. Does the layout immediately turn the reader off? Or does it make him sit up. Are the fonts, their colour and size, comfortable for reading? They should not be overly fanciful or stiff. Do you give adequate breathing and thinking space by using paragraphs? Be careful not to overuse space as it scatters the writing's flow and the reader's thought.

      #11 Write Properly
      By this, I refer not only to using these tips- but to write with proper grammar and spelling! Use spell check or ask friends to check if necessary. An article with poor English discounts greatly the credibility of the writer and his ideas. Make it as flawless as possible.

      #12 Write at the Beginning, Middle & End

      Within the opening, make it clear as soon as possible, on what the article is about. In the middle, tell the readers what you want to say and summarise with a resounding conlusion at the end. Readers' attention is usually sharpest at the beginning and towards the end. Many readers "scroll" to the end to see what the ending is about. Seeing a captivating opening and a convincing ending will encourage them to read the main body.

      #13 Write Truthfully

      Write the truth. Even great classics like "Lord of the Rings" tell timeless truths of human nature though they might be fantasy stories. When what you write has no bearing of truth, the reader will be unable to relate in any way.

      #14 Write to Benefit

      Write to benefit others and yourself. A good example of totally unbeneficial articles are the gossip columns of newspapers which often speculate on "theories" about celebrities' lives- which have nothing to do with us. While such articles may be interesting, the worth of writing is always in the amount it affects you positively. Write with the idea of sharing your "hows." Eg. "How to be more patient." Write to move the world, to change it- to make it a kinder and wiser place. Good writing tranforms not only the reader in the process of reading, but also the the writer in the process of writing. It becomes an spiritual practice of self-reflection.

      #15 Write & Read

      Remember, if you don't feel like reading your own finished writing twice or more and stay interested, chances are readers will not be interested to read even once. The best articles always deserve second readings as the first reading positively overwhelms, and requires a second reading to fully appreciate and savour it! 

      #16 Write and Rewrite

      Write and revise as many times as possible. Good articles do not come by chance- even a short poem needs to be painstakingly crafted. Practice makes perfect. Everything worth doing is worth doing well. It takes time to perfect writing. You might even spend hours cutting a long article to a single short paragraph! Take the time, however long it takes. In the mean time, enjoy writing!

      #17 Write for Individuals

      Remember- as with everything else, readers' taste can be very subjective. These tips are only general guidelines from one person's experience. Every individual you write for is unique. Even the Buddha Himself is supposed to have used as many as 84,000 different skillful means to reach beings of different nature. Yet the aim is singular- to reveal the innate Buddha-nature of every being. Likewise, a good writer knows clearly his purpose.

      #18 Write Your Credo

      A good kickstart to writing practice is writing your credo- a statement of your life so far, your beliefs, hopes and fears... It is a great way to analyse yourself, to write a "prescription" to your trouble in mind, to plan... Write too, an ideal imaginary eulogy delivered by your best friend, your last words in a letter... It's incredible how therapeutic writing can be when you get down to it.

      #19 Write Now

      When you feel the urge to write, do it immediately, if not, as soon as possible. Many people forget the most inspiring events in their lives when they procrastinate. If you can't write straightaway, jot notes- in your phone, email, palm or notebook... Have the discipline to set time aside to expand these notes into complete articles. Use www.blogger.com to put up your works online in real time. Send your works to your friends, get feedback... Join The Moonpointer Fellowship! (See top.)

      #20 Write the Next Tip!

      The above has been written with the above tips! Any other tips to share? Email moon@... your next tip! If you can come up with more tips, when you are ready to write about writing, chances are you are improving your writing already!

      - Amituofo, Stonepeace@...

      (Stonepeace is the editor/ writer of www.TheDailyEnlightenment.com & www.stonepeace.blogspot.com and has been enjoying writing for more than 10 years, and started serious writing about 4 years ago. He sees the lack of Buddhist writers, especially locally in Singapore- which is what urged him to write the above.)

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