Love Writing? Here's Advice From Influential Authors
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Content marketers are trying to create content every day to inspire people and influence them. Here are some writing tips from authors Entrepreneur India spoke to help you influence readers, which matters to you.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Forest of Enchantments
The Palace of Illusions
“True influencing happens when one cares about what one is writing about, when one finds an appropriate subject that resonates with readers, and when one has a strong message. Whether you are writing a non-fiction article, or a fictional story or a novel or even a poem, the first step is to hone in on an idea that is meaningful and important to you. For instance, when I was writing The Forest of Enchantments, my novel which showcases Sita as the narrator of her life, I started with the idea that it is important for women to find their own voices and tell their own stories. I saw how this was important in society—particularly in our Indian culture. I saw how society would benefit from it, and how a novel like mine might encourage other women to make their voices heard.
The second step would be to find a strong subject to write about. It needs to be something/someone that you care about and that is, additionally, of interest to your audience. I felt that Sita's story is deeply woven into our lives as Indians. We know this story in most households even as children. So there would be some knowledge and excitement and curiosity about the subject already.
The final step is to understand the message you want to give. As I researched Sita's character, I began to see that she is far more complex and stronger than society has given her credit for. She is very contemporary and experiences what many women in today's world have gone through. She is abducted. She is rejected by her husband. She has to bring up her children on her own—and does it very well. This helped me to build her character in a way that my message came through clearly: let us empathize with Sita's suffering and learn from her strengths.”
The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution
“In my opinion, there are three key factors in writing to influence.
Believe in the cause: If you want someone else to take your cause seriously, you have to believe in it, and your passion has to permeate your writing. Readers will be able to discern whether you really care, or if you are just presenting a point of view. If you are a good writer, you can make the case for just about anything, like the need to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, but your writing will be stronger if your life has been touched by the disease, and you know its impact firsthand.
Know your audience: While believing in your cause is critical, you must also know what your audience already believes. Are they likely to be receptive to your ideas or do they need to be convinced? Readers will quickly determine whether you know them and what moves them.
Tell stories: People expect you to provide facts, but they also relate to other people and their stories. If you are writing about medical breakthroughs, for example, you will be expected to supply details of the research, but your narrative will come alive through stories about the researchers and patients who have been helped by new drugs or treatments.
Finally, you should always bear in mind that there are relatively few topics on which your readers don’t already have opinions. Some people just “dig in their heels” when they read something contrary to their belief system. As a result, you won’t always succeed in influencing your readers, even if you follow my advice. However, for those readers who are open to new information with a relatively open mind, you will have a reasonable chance of success.”
“When you write, you should be true to yourself. Never give up on what you really want to say because you think that something will sell more. Almost 99 per cent of the writers in this world don’t make money. They only make enough money to sustain themselves. However, the other 1 per cent makes more money than they ever imagined. Writing is a high risk and a high return profession. I have three advices for people who want to write.
Write whatever you truly want to say: You need to be aware about how strongly you feel and write about that. Don’t ever compromise on what you want to say because you think that the audience will like you better. Be your most authentic self when you are writing. You will be much happier with your work when it’s finally done.
Be a good reader: One way to be a good writer is to be a good reader. Reading opens up your mind and teaches you more about the world. And to be a good writer, you need to know more about the world from different perspectives. If you truly want to write, I hope you read a lot.
Do a side job while you are writing: As I said, writing is a high risk and a high return profession. You need to do a side job while you are writing so that you can sustain yourself. Many writers don’t make enough money to lead a life. If you don’t have enough money to sustain yourself, eventually writing will not be sustainable. Though I have done well at writing, I still take up other commitments. I am the director at the Nehru Center in London. This position has helped me to gain exposure and give back to my nation. Finding ways in which my writing interests intersect with other professions in the world and giving back makes me satisfied.
There are many more tips to writing. But I think that these have been my guiding light.”
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“Writing an impactful piece is part art and part science. While the art part of writing is largely inherited, nurtured and built through years of rigorous reading, the science part of writing is a little easier to master. Following are two key facets to mastering the science part of writing.
Answer the three most important questions: In any writing assignment, it is imperative to answer the three most important questions before embarking on the journey—who is my reader? In case of non-fiction, why is this piece relevant now? In case of fiction, what is the conflict and the resolution?
It is advisable to picture the final reader as vividly as possible across lines of gender, urban/rural, age, SEC, occasion for reading, channel for reading (electronic, physical). In case of non-fiction, the most important question is often on the relevance of what is being written to the current times. In case of fiction, it is necessary to identify conflict (revenge, growing up, failure) and the resolution to address the conflict.
Be minimalistic and deploy anecdotes instead of facts: To build a gripping narrative, it is necessary to deploy minimalism. It is best practiced by deleting a paragraph at one go and evaluating if the script falls flat or stays in place. Only paragraphs that result in the script falling flat should be retained and the remaining flab should be ruthlessly deleted.
For nonfiction writing, it is helpful to use anecdotes instead of numbers. For instance, instead of saying 80 per cent of youngsters watch 5 hours of mobile content in the evening, it is better suited to illustrate this point as, “Meet Ashwin, he prefers to watch sitcom series on his mobile phone after work from tea time to dinner”.”
The Kitty Party Murder
“Here are six tips if you want to be a good writer.
First, anything that presumes to tell you how to write must begin by telling you that you must read. Read everything you can lay your hands on. Read a thousand pages to write one true page. Read good writing to learn from it, bad writing to learn what not to do. Read books that speak to you rather than books everyone is reading or talking about.
Second, practice writing. Everything needs riyaaz—an artist, a performer, an athlete, a surgeon. The same applies to writing. What Malcolm Gladwell said is true, 10,000 hours of practice. And I would add 10,000 words of perfecting. Write every single day no matter what—500 words or 50 words—but write. All the words will add up someday.
Third, your first draft of anything is rubbish. It is somewhere around the tenth draft that your manuscript will begin to get polished. Ninety nine per cent of the writing is about rewriting. Be prepared to rewrite, rework, polish umpteen times until you can’t do anything anymore.
Fourth, pay attention to the rhythm of the sentences. Vary the pace. Short sentences, long sentences, a few words. Read what you have written out aloud to see how it sounds. If you find difficulty in reading it out, you need to figure out how to make it a more comfortable read.
Fifth, easy reading is the toughest writing. Some of our best writers write in the most simple manner. Use beautiful language, let your grammar be impeccable, but don’t write in a manner that shows the effort behind thinking it. The words need to flow while writing, so they can flow while the reader is reading them.
And finally, have fun. Writing should be enjoyable. If you don’t enjoy the writing process, the reader will not enjoy reading it.”