The Skills Necessary for Writing

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Douglas Brown March 11, 2013 ENG 309

Snappy Revision Essay

If I had to describe my growth as a writer in this class with a sort of vague, not especially clear one word answer, that word would be effectiveness. Let me explain: as the typical young boy who gets introduced to fiction by the Harry Potter-Game of Thrones industrial complex, the actual work of writing seemed fairly simple to me. First, describe what a character is physically doing, then describe what that character is thinking, then find some nice adjectives and verbs, so that when you’re characters are speaking, you can give their dialogue tags some flair like “Harry replied happily” or “Hermione interrupted snappily”. I’m not going to say that this class has completely blown the door open on my writing, but I will say that what I’ve learned in this class is that writing like this maybe good for commercial fiction, the skills that really constitute good writing and literature is making sure that I hit all the notes that I need to hit. The notes specifically being: Is what I’m writing actually true, or to be more clear, is what I’m saying conveying something important that can be understood by other people, then is what I’m making my characters do, say, or think something they would actually do, say, or think?

Some of the authors that we’ve read this quarter have really helped me see how writing, especially prose, can be different or more interesting than the science fiction slash young adult novels that I’ve been raised on. No book could be more different than those novels while still using prose than Sarah Manguso’s The Two Kinds of Decay. While obviously being a memoir, so by definition very different than those novels I was raised on, Manguso’s writing here is extremely dark, and almost lyrical. What fascinates me about the book is more the style with which it is written, there are these stand alone chapter that all contain some small bead of insight that when joined together make...
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