The Five Laws of Quality Writing (subject to change)

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This is more of a declaration of intent in regards to Yours truly. There’s enough writing advice on this site to drive an eager young Padawan to crusty-mouthed delirium should they attempt to read it all, and I have neither the expertise, nor the self awareness, required to teach anyone anything about the current lay of the land when it comes to clap-grabbing Medium authorship, or snazzy internet-writing in general. Rather, the intended goal is to type up some basic self-correcting guidelines in the hopes that I may actually adhere to them, rather than conceding yet again to the churlish whims of my restless vagabond conscious. I wanna write rules to myself to write better, is what I’m saying.

Maybe this will influence someone else. If so, I apologise; the damage is probably irreversible, but I promise that the advice is at least a little different from the usual get-money, five step, SEO tagline hustle the 10k bosses usually lacerate us 100-follower peasants with.

Be careful with the verbosity, but long words can be effective. Don’t start writing like a ten year old.

I don’t mean to insult ten year olds. I’m sure they have their own problems with things like sugar and getting dressed. But putting a nice four-syllable-plus word in here and there greatly contributes to the ecology of our medium, and can actually be a more efficient way of communicating complex ideas. It’s all in the precision of their use; the developing of taste and rhythm and the understanding that such words exist for a reason. Don’t worry about accusations of pretentiousness, as the threshold for tolerance on this has been set depressingly low by society. Cultivate your own sensibilities on the issue, and aspire to raise the diction of others, rather than degrade and demean the integrity of your own.

Diminutives over superlatives. Understatement over hyperbole.

There’s quite a bit of exaggeration on the internet. People really do like a good over-milking it seems. It’s all cynical, psychologically manipulative milking though, and you can imagine the kind of demented dairy farmer that gets a kick out of that. It’s not a hard and fast rule; you have to put a bit of gusto into your presentation sometimes, but it seems as though words like some, perhaps, a little, and occasionally have all been taken out the back and shot at some point recently, and I don’t like it. Emphatic certainty and the Absolute have taken their place, and every sentence is less an invitation to thought than a commandment to obey. I politely suggest that nuance and measured phrasing inspire a more considered, sober state of reflection in the reader.

Don’t lock out your comments like an arrogant twat.

Oops, but excuse me. Yes it is indeed “your space” to customise and curate, but closing yourself off is never a good look. You just come across as someone who enjoys the smell of their own farts while being intolerant to criticism. Not all negative feedback is “abuse”, and such words are cheapened every time they are erroneously deployed. Evaluate reader input on your own terms; claim the wheat, discard the chaff and write as though you expect others to read it.

Receiving feedback is often a great honour and the people who take the time to read your work deserve your respect. Time is an ever-dwindling resource for many, and they are rationing out a portion of it for your benefit as well as theirs, hopefully.

Writing for others is not necessarily at odds with writing for yourself.

You don’t have to know each reader you have on a personal level to adhere to some basic principles. When we create we are merely tying together certain thoughts and experiences into a novel pattern, with a design that should seek to elicit certain emotions and moments of reflection within whoever is reading. The precise nature or form of those impressions in any individual member of the audience are not particularly important, and would be impossible to accurately divine. The person could just be a complete idiot, after all, and what do you call someone trying to second-guess an idiot? Something at least one order of magnitude worse than the idiot, I would presume.

Nevertheless I’m not keen on this post-modern consequentialist stuff where the intentions of the author are considered invisible to the text. The intent of a writer is not always so obscure, and it is always a noble endeavour when the author tries to extend the olive branch as best they can and the reader attempts to reciprocate in good faith and effort. Give me the work of two different writers and I can easily discern the one who writes with greater humanity and empathy; it’s not all in the eye of the beholder. That’s the kind of work we all care the most about really: the empathetic. We want to feel someone else’s heartbeat. That’s really corny, but I’m leaving it in.

Write to make the world a better place. Or at least not a worse one.

Sometimes I write because I need a release from the coils tightening inside me. Other times it’s because I feel it is the only true skill I really have. On other occasions it’s because I need to externalise some terrible nonsense that is causing me trouble. In regards to my fiction it is often because I want understand someone/something else and I need to lay all the disparate elements of that person/thing out in front of me and render them into an idea that makes sense to me.

In all of these cases the endgame is to move other people. I want to give them a concept, a scene or a happenstance that inspires resonance and uplift. I want to challenge the negativity and wrongfulness in the world, but not at the expense of an answer or some element of hope. The world is in a lot of pain right now, and people write like they are screaming. They communicate in domineering tones and with outraged, sneering mannerisms. We are in that place of post-post everything, where nothing is what it seems and nobody seems to be able to be trusted. I vow to do my best to provide something different. I’ll try to provide something more vital and more sincere, for my sake as well as those who are kind enough to entertain my company.

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