Thursday, September 13, 2012

Writing 101: How to Write Objectively

If you're a writer, there are times when you have to learn how to leave your opinions out of what you're writing. Even fiction authors who largely focus on novels might be asked to write an article or blog post, and it's definitely a good idea to do so. Any piece of writing can help you promote yourself as an author and make more people aware of who you are. But if you can't write objectively, you may end up hurting your sales and your image instead. 


Shhhh...

Believe it or not, I'm very good at keeping certain opinions to myself. Sure, I've passionately talked about certain words and I'm very clear about grammar rules and how I feel about them...but you definitely can't tell me if I vote, if I'm religious or how I happen to feel about any issue outside of writing whatsoever. Authors have to learn how to write objectively not just in blog posts and articles, they've got to learn how to do it in social media and forum groups, too. There are lots of reasons you're going to have to write objectively. 

Do you know how? 

Writing Objectively

As an author, it's always a part of your job description to look at things from different perspectives. When you create certain scenarios and scenes in your books, some of them are bound to involve more than one person. You have to write for your main character and the entire supporting cast as well, and each one of them is bringing something different to your literary table. So you might be really great at expressing and imagining opinions, drawing conclusions and forming emotions.  

Having no opinion and no emotions is going to be a whole heck of a lot harder. But I feel strongly about most everything (I'll engage you in a 10-minute argument about closet doors any day of the week), and I've found ways to be objective just the same -- so I know you can, too. 
  • Get opinions. Writing objectively isn't always about writing with no opinion whatsoever. More often, it's about showing all sides of a particular argument. You can try mental gymnastics, and use your author's creativity to put yourself in a dozen different pairs of shoes, and you should. But while you're at it you should also do some general research. See who else has written about your topic, and what they've said, and what opinions they've expressed. Reading what others have to say about a thing can really help you write objectively, because it can help you see something from many different sides. 
  • Informative, not emotional. You have to learn how to be informative and not emotional when you're writing objectively. You're presenting something to readers, not expressing it. This in particular can be tricky for fiction authors, who are always so focused on painting complete scenes and putting emotion into every paragraph. You've got to turn all of that off. Think of each sentence as some new evidence you're putting out there. 
  • Look at your adjectives. Re-read what you've written and find all the adjectives. In lots of objective writing, you don't need too many adjectives. It's not for you to say something is "small." Give me the dimensions, and I, as the reader, will decide that. Are you qualified to say that something is "beautiful?" Maybe I like pea green best of all -- is that your favorite color? Adjectives are really just traps in objective writing, because more often than not you should be presenting and not describing. 
  • Don't engage. When it comes to social media, forums and other venues when objective writing isn't really practiced by anyone, you have to discipline yourself not to engage in certain conversations. Unless you are marketing books that are obviously religious or political, and obviously aligned with some faction therein, you will only be alienating readers by loudly shouting your opinion on these matters. When you're wearing your author persona, you are not a complete person. You're an objective, creative writing machine that turns out fantastic prose. Where you stand politically isn't any of my damned business, so don't make it my business. 
There are lots of reasons writers have to learn how to write objectively, and lots more reasons why that's incredibly difficult. Re-read your stuff to make sure you're looking at things from all sides, or no sides. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, and you are too -- but you shouldn't necessarily be sharing it everywhere. Let your characters have the opinions, and all the glory, and you just continue to do your thing behind the keyboard. When you're not in author mode, continue being whoever you already are, and keep opinions where they belong.

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4 comments:

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