April 26, 2017

Grammar, story, or words?

I have a close friend who loves grammar. Loves to study it, use it, think about it, and talk about it.  Once she tried to get me to talk about it.  I demurred.  Because to me, grammar is a big snooze.  I know it well enough in an intuitive sort of way (I did ace the grammar test I had to take to get into journalism school) and that’s enough for me.

But my friend was shocked.  “You’re not into grammar? I thought every writer was.”

Uh-uh. Not this writer.

And then there are words.  I subscribe to the Word A Day email but most days it remains unopened. I use a thesaurus almost daily, but I don’t obsess about finding just the right word.  I’m interested in words (after all, they are the main tools of my trade), but I’m not a word geek.

Ah, but story.  Story lights me up—reading a good one, talking about aspects of it, pulling one apart to see how it was put together.  I’ll read a novel with questionable grammar if I’m into the story.  And while I admire books with beautiful words strung together into flowing sentences, if there’s not an engaging story to it, I’m done.

It took me a long time to realize that I’m into this game for the story.  Because of that, I felt slightly inferior when writer friends started speaking rapturously about grammar and words.  But not anymore. Because I’ve figured out what drives me when I read.

I think all of us coming to writing through reading, but I’ve also come to realize that it is likely the words, the grammar, or the story aspects of reading that grab us.

Why does this even matter?

Because the more you know about yourself as a writer, the easier it is going to be for you to write. And the easier it is for you to write, the more prolific you’ll be. And dare I say it—the more prolific you are, the better your writing. I know some will argue with me on that, preferring the practice of lingering over every word and sentence. But I contend that writing fast teaches you more about craft.

Getting your writing out of your head and onto the page is the most important thing of all.  So whether it is grammar, words or story that you love—just get writing.

—Charlotte Rains Dixon


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