Identity and Voice

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Title: ‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.’ (King, 2000: 145) To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Good writers are able to express complex ideas with style, clarity, and accuracy. When they articulate ideas which we ourselves, as writers, have struggled with, they gain our appreciation, respect, and even admiration. We often wonder how and whether they can teach us how to do it. Many writers have tried to teach the principles of good writing and have even explained their methods, but this merely cannot teach their students how to write, or else by now we would all be excellent writers.

Most teachers of writing, and all good writers, agree that there are two things that cannot avoided in learning to write well: reading and writing. I completely agree with King’s statement. ‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.’ (King, 2000: 145) One must do each of these things, enthusiastically and prolifically. Reading a lot is necessary to learn the principles of good writing, but the knowledge of these principles is not sufficient to make one a good writer. One must also write a lot in order to provide feedback for editing, where these principles are applied to one’s own writing. After gaining the ability to to write well, one must do it enough to make it a habit.

Stephen King believes that a good writer must be able to “…read and write 4-6 hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can't expect to become a good writer.” (King, 2000:178). Although 4-6 hours is the minimum recommended by King, it is certainly not the maximum. Such a maximum or cap simply does not exist. The brain learns to write largely by osmosis and the more sentences you expose it to, the more it will learn. King considers that reading a lot is essential in order to become a good writer. He believes that good writing teaches the writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth-telling. (King, 2000: 152). In a word, it helps the writer develop good taste.

Style is the easiest thing to notice in good writing. It is one of the only features of good writing that should stand out. Good writing often displays artful phrasing, creative and pleasant to read. This kind of writing often possesses a balance in its sentences and a rhythm that carries from sentence to sentence. There is also an obsessive attention to word choice; each word has a purpose and a place. (Pack, 1991:113) A good writer must develop these points of technique, so fundamental to writing yet so diverse in their application. In order to be fully appreciated, these sentences that result from good style must be read aloud. (Pack, 1991: 57)

Auditory readers, in particular, benefit enormously from reading good writing. Auditory readers are people who sound out words in their heads while reading. When reading, these readers are able to hear the rhythm and consonance of the arrangement of words which we call a sentence. This cultivates a certain appreciation and sensitivity to the flow of the sentence. The sensitivity developed as readers helps people with their phrasing of sentences as writers. This is particularly true for writing which is meant to be spoken aloud, such as speeches or literature.

Reading good writing also teaches the writer what sort of effect good writing should have on the reader. King explains that “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.” (King, 2000:153) Good writing produces a feeling of deep absorption, exhilaration, and the anticipation of more writing. When the reader is finished reading, they will notice they have just returned from somewhere else,...
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