In this post, we’ll be talking about writing, something I should probably be pretty good at now but unfortunately am likely not. Writing can essentially be boiled down into two different categories: technique and specialty. Specialty is something we’ve all learned before — in particular, it’s the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Since this might be a tired topic for most of you, we’ll focus this first writing series on technique instead.
Before we go over the categories of technique, we’ll discuss some umbrella rules of writing. These consist of productivity tips that apply to all of the topics we’ll be discussing. We’ll split them into writing and editing.
For writing, you’ll want to do it in a distraction free environment for a specific allotted amount of time or work. This might look like writing 500 words while keeping the phone away, or jotting down pages of work for an hour in some secluded part of the house. For me personally, I lock down my computer to only have my Google Drive, then keep writing until I’m done with a cup of green tea. You can do your own weird trick for this as well — just make sure there’s little distraction and that you know how long you’ll be writing for.
For editing, the rule is to write first, edit last. That is, don’t try to write and edit at the same time! You’ll end up getting yourself stuck trying to make things perfect. If you think the story is going poorly, or your writing could be better, it doesn’t matter; just trudge forward, and worry about it later. I’ll let you in on a little secret: 20% of writing is writing, and 80% of writing is editing. Just like how programmers spend the majority of their time debugging their code, you’ll spend the majority of your time debugging your writing. Better to get used to that fact sooner rather than later.
Alright, now time for the categories. Broadly speaking, there are four different types of writing techniques: conversational, technical, comprehensive, and iterative. The first two are styles of grammar, whereas the second two are styles of structure. As we’ll see, some tend to match with each other very well.
The conversational technique is used a lot in speeches (duh), as well as fiction and laymen books. With the conversational technique your goal is to keep the readers interested. People are a lot more willing to stay with a book if it feels like it’s talking to them. They particularly are more willing to stay if it feels clever, suspenseful, or emotional; all hallmarks of conversational writing.
Technical writing, on the other hand, is less careful in making readers interested in more careful in making sure readings know, clearly and precisely, what to do. Because of this idea, it’s most appropriate for textbooks, research, and documentation. We don’t really care if our readers are interested, since we’ll assume their need to get a specific job done will do that for us — instead, we focus on explaining complex problems simply, and detailing in a very step by step (even if it’s to the point of redundancy) manner in order to maximize success.