Today I am beginning a series of posts about the craft of writing. This is information I got while studying writing as a graduate student at Portland State University. I have internalized some of these points, but many are concepts that I am still working on. I’m posting them here to get them off the floor of my home-office and into a handy place where I can refer back to them.
First of all, maybe it goes without saying but writing is very personal to us all. Even with the driest of material, writing is still a form of self expression, so when you work with writing and with writers, it’s helpful to always be aware of this fact. The gruffest of us seem to be the most sensitive, and anyone who tells me they have thick skin is immediately suspect.
My personal strategy is to try to keep it separated. My creative writing is writing I do on my own time. As Bob Ross would say: “It’s my own little world.” I can do anything I want to with it.
My work writing is for work. I don’t own it. They do. I’m there as a facilitator, cheerleader, project manager, researcher, idea bringer, collaborator, and doctor. It’s important to have a good “bedside manner.” Critical, in fact. Organized flexibility is key. An ego impervious to those who will thoughtlessly walk all over it is paramount. So, as sensitive as I can often be, I am fortunate to have an ego that takes it on the chin, for the most part.
There is competition to do the writing. From engineer to assembler, everyone seems to want to do it. Very few know how to qualify good writing, and many of us fall into that awful trap of subjectivity when we try to pass judgement. That means that sometimes good writing is overlooked, and sometimes bad writing is preferred.
The 6 + 1 Trait Analytical Model for assessing and teaching writing consists of seven qualities. (This is what I got from my “technical” writing courses. No fluffiness here.)
I’ll go into each of these more in later posts, but briefly, the key qualities are:
- Ideas—the heart of the message
- Organization—the internal structure of the piece
- Voice—the personal tone and flavor of the author’s message
- Word Choice—the vocabulary a writer chooses to convey meaning
- Sentence Fluency—the rhythm and flow of the language
- Conventions—the mechanical correctness
- Presentation—how the writing actually looks on the page