Group: All Things ScribeSlice

Writing without sounding like instructing/preaching

Hi everyone,

I've been writing for magazines for several years. Although I graduated from an English department from a US college, I never really developed my writing skills until I was hired by a non-profit. As my writing improved (through painstaking trial and error), I have acquired a certain creative process that I follow with every new task I take on.

However, now that I'm trying to write on a broader range of topics, I feel like I'm caught in a "style" that often sounds like I'm instructing the reader, worse preaching at times even on light topics, and thus alienating the reader.

Does this come from my background as an English teacher? (I've been teaching ESL part-time for over 8 years). How do I get out of this style? Is it simply a matter of "tone"?

I look forward to your advice.

Dennis p. Lischer

29th December 2014

What are your goals for writing, this should be one of your first steps. By that decide what it is you want to write and what you want to accomplish. What is it that you want your voice or writing to say to the reader? When thinking about this you need to consider your audience.

Next you say that you are caught in a style which some call a rut. Think about what it is you want to avoid. Ideas and phrases that are over done, themes that YOU think are boring, habits you have developed, anything that you feel like you are over doing. maybe make a list of the things you would like to avoid.

If you make a list of things to avoid then make a list of alternative options to counter the things in your writing that you want to avoid. Don't be afraid to try something new.

Try writing an article or piece that you totally disagree with. For example (and this is just an example) lets say that you do not believe in miracles try writing as though you do or vise versa. This will help you to start thinking in more creative terms. Do some research on the topics you choose.

Try a little of everything, the more you do this the better you will get at each one.
write poetry, short stories (fiction or non-fiction), articles, how-to, narratives, etc.... while experimenting you might find some hidden talent that you never knew you possessed.

Get ideas from new sources. As you are listening to music think of a story behind the music (my favorite method), rewrite a tv show or movie from a new perspective, if you are watching the news on tv or reading it in a paper think of alternative perspectives or even turn it into a short story or poem. I did that with my work "Murder in the Senseless".

Practice being someone else and write about your adventures as a new person.

Finally read. Read every point of view weather you agree or disagree and try to see some merit in your opponents viewpoint.

I hope this help and that you have great success in whatever you decide to write about.

Deborah Boydston

2nd January 2015

Thank you for the various approaches to "getting out of a rut". I will try it.

Dennis p. Lischer

3rd January 2015

I think you have to just consider the entertainment of the reader. You are telling a story that needs to keep the reader invested. It needs to capture all of the senses while also providing, humor, suspense, detail, and raw emotion. You want the reader to feel immersed in your story. If you can do that, you're a winner! Daniel Bird is one of my favorites on this site. He is an amazing writer. Take a look! All the best to you.

Cindy Beitinger

8th January 2015

Thank you Cindy! I'm trying my best...before errands and chores take me from my blank page again...hahaha.....

Dennis p. Lischer

10th January 2015

Writer for the reader and not yourself.

Possibly having had a background in teaching it is hard to detach yourself from the structured environment where your knowledge on a certain subject transcends those who you are instructing, whom rely on your guidance to obtain certain skills. An environment where you are in charge and your students are your subordinates.

In order not to alienate your readers you have to speak to them as an equal. Of course any article that requires your knowledge will need a certain amount of instruction but try to talk down to your reader. Include them as part of your overall focus avoid turning personal preference into sound advice, always make room for alternatives.

Years ago before buying my very first computer I came across a book concerning how to choose a PC. Instead of trumpeting the virtues of PCs over Macs (or vice versa) it simply explained the functions of a computer, the technological gobbledegook and how to determine what computer was best for you. I found that sort of advise invaluable.

I suppose we all inadvertently adopt our own styles. Most times, once I have finished writing something I wait a day or so then re-read it and see how far I can get through before I start losing interest. I mark that part, edit it to read better, then start the process again and again until I can read the whole lot without losing interest. But that's just me.

Leslie Blackwell

11th January 2015

Thanks for the useful tips, Leslie.

Dennis p. Lischer

12th January 2015

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