Don’t you just love to play with sentences? Choose a subject, a verb, and an object, and experiment to find out how many ways you can combine them to write a sentence; you’ll note quickly there are 50 ways to write a sentence (and often that many variations in meaning).

Try these words: teacher (subject), cram (verb), idea (object).

  • The teacher crams ideas into a student’s head.
  • Ideas are crammed by the teacher into the student’s head.
  • The student’s head is crammed with ideas from the teacher.
  • The cruel teacher tries to cram ideas into the student’s thick head.
  • The loving teacher crams creative ideas into the eager head of the student.
  • A student’s eager head is ready for the teacher to cram it with ideas.

And on and on. Is it any wonder we often hear of authors who work all day on a single paragraph (some even work all day on a single sentence). Many successful authors write one sentence at a time, experimenting (as above) with the variety of ways to present ideas in the shape of words.

WARNING: This idea may be detrimental to your work. (My writing philosophy!)

After years of reading, writing and teaching writing, I have discovered the value of spontaneity and the high price of perfection. HOWEVER, the spontaneity follows some thought process. Here’s how most successful writers work; here’s how I do it anyway:

1. Sit down with a pad and pen. Bubble! That is, write down the key ideas you want to include in the piece you are contemplating. Please don’t list them in a neat row; spread them out like bubbles on a page. (Computers don’t do this; a pen and paper serves better.)

  • Kinds of teachers
  • Styles of teaching
  • Ways to transmit ideas
  • Kinds of ideas
  • Where the ideas belong
  • Cram – and its meaning
  • Cram – is it useful

Now return to the computer. Copy the phrases you have written in capital letters.

  • etc.

Look at the order and decide what is most important to transmit your message. Place that at the head of the list. You’ll be surprised at the change in focus that occurs (emphasizing the role of teachers versus the importance of transmitting ideas, or even the method used).

When you have chosen the order of your topics, use the capital letter subjects as subheads and start to write.

The best way to bring out creative ideas is to let them come naturally.

There are several styles of teaching that can be effective: lecture, assign reading, produce empirical examples, or jump in and let the student try.

Teachers come in a variety of forms, with a variety of experience, opinions, views, biases, and expertise.

Now go back and play with those words at the beginning of this article. How would you put them together? What has happened is that you have had an opportunity to give some thought to your ideas. And isn’t that what writing is all about? Eighty percent thought formation and twenty percent writing it down?

Copyright ©2005 Val Dumond


About Val Dumond

VAL DUMOND is a writer who is enamored with words and putting them together to tell stories. Trained as a journalist, she also managed an advertising agency and public relations business. She has taught writing classes for many years and now focuses on her own writing, editing for other writers, and helping writers publish their books. She owns Muddy Puddle Press, where most of her books are published. Her favorite writing theme is historical fiction: She has done what-ifs for Klondike Kate — Queen of the Yukon, and the unlucky pilot who in 1933 tried and failed to be the first to fly solo across the Pacific. She also did a what-if about the status of women at a bank where she once was overworked and underpaid. (Kate received a new love interest at the age of 70; the pilot received a second chance at his heart's desire 50 years later; and the women of the bank rebelled enough to improve their wages and place women on the Board of Directors.) See: SUGAR, SPICE, AND STONE; WHEN ROOSTERS FLY; and A LITTLE REBELLION…. But Val's grammar books are the ones that draw attention. Her latest, AMERICAN-ENGLISH—The Official Guide (written for writers), is a culmination of five other books about language she has written. This new book urges writers to develop their own writing style by creating their own Style Manual, composed of preferences among the many choices that American-English provides. In it, she uses examples of uses for the various parts of language and punctuation, sets aside a section that's full of writing tips, includes a glossary and index for easy access to language solutions.
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