The Practice of Writing
Virgil, the great Roman poet, wrote "Practice and thought might gradually forge many an art." From this we can assume that practice comes before thought, and so it is with present day writers.
What must be practiced? If one is to be a successful writer then one must be able to practice good grammar. In order to practice good grammar, a writer must know the rules of good grammar and therefore must study the rules of good grammar. Most editors reject quickly those writers who do not know how to construct a proper sentence with at least a subject and predicate.
Besides knowledge of a simple sentence, a writer must use compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences. In order to perfect the ability to use these sentences, one must practice their use until it becomes second nature.
Once a writer-through practice-has mastered the sentence then it is time to work on the paragraph. Again, composing a unified, effective paragraph requires practice so that it has unity, coherence, rhythm and acceptable syntax.
English syntax can only be learned by practice, particularly the practice of reading. A "wannabe" writer must be a reader-one who reads voraciously and eclectically so that good syntax will come naturally. However, this reading must be done studiously with awareness of the writer's style and composition, because syntax is the way in which one puts the words together. Now the writer must practice and develop his own style of syntax.
This brings us to the next practice: the use of the dictionary and thesaurus-not the dictionary and thesaurus that are found with most word processors. Although they are helpful, they are not as beneficial as a complete and unabridged dictionary or thesaurus. If a writer depends completely on the dictionary and thesaurus found with most word processors, one's writing will be full of mistakes.
Finally, but not the least, is punctuation. Although most punctuation is a personal preference, there still are basic rules that should be learned and practiced.
In all case of grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, and syntax, the writer must know the rules before he breaks them. Moreover, the only way to become proficient in their use is by continual practice.
Once the basics are acquired, then the writer can proceed to writing fiction or non-fiction in poetry, articles, essays, short stories, etc., again practicing until one has develop a personal voice or style.
Charles O. Goulet has a BA in English literature and has written several novels that are available through Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and other online bookstores.
His website is: http://www.telusplanet.net/public/go1c
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