Write your story in the simplest way to capture your readers
We’re talking about how to write well and earn a place in the coming Easy-to-Read Chinese Short Stories, Book 3.
My understanding of writing well is to write in a way that is simple, engaging and easy to follow. I believe this is the ultimate trait of good writers. Think of Hemingway’s little book, The Old Man and the Sea.
In the Chinese Writing Contest, the limitation of the available 320 characters has, to a certain extent, forced aspiring writers to write as simple as possible.
But that’s not enough. You have to aim at delivering a good reading experience for your readers. You must make your writing captivating.
Here I share five steps that will help you write better.
- Have a clear outline
This is your drawing board. Once you have a good idea to write, outline it first.
Take a look at the sample stories of the previous Easy-to-Read Chinese Short Stories books (Click this link to read: https://mslmaster.com/index.php/chinese-textbooks/easy-to-read-series).
One is White Horse, written by Joshua Twilley. There are six paragraphs in this story. Each paragraph has a clear function to push the story forward.
The other is Three Fish, written by Hazel Till. The entire story is clearly defined in three stages, before, transition, and after.
Both stories can be outlined in a few simple bullet points.
This is where you need to get started, an outline of a few bullet points. It is a roadmap that will keep you focused.
Without this outline, you’re likely to ramble around and add last-minute things or plot points.
- Use simple words
As mentioned earlier, the limitation of the available 320 characters has already dictated that participants have to use simple words. It’s hard to pile up tons of adjectives or adverbs using only 320 characters.
This is a good thing. Make sure you take advantage of this Chinese Writing Contest and hone your writing skills.
Also read the two sample stories mentioned above and see how Joshua and Hazel use simple words to express their ideas and the character development.
Other well written examples that I recommend are not related to the Chinese Writing Contest. But they’ve demonstrated the very best writing skills. I’m talking about those popular science articles. Check out writings from Albert Einstein and 钱学森 and learn how they used the simplest words to explain something that is so profound and difficult.
The worst writings are full of obscure words and jargons. I find plenty of them in academia and business articles.
- Use short sentences
One advantage of writing in Chinese is that it is pretty hard to come up with long and winding sentences.
That is the nature of the Chinese language. Nobody can use words like “that” or “which” to continue a sentence forever.
However, over the past years, I still saw plenty of unnecessarily long sentences. I suspect that is the result of Google Translate.
Don’t use translation softwares if you want your story to read well.
- Edit for simplicity
After you finish your first draft, edit it.
Firstly, think how you can make your writing even simpler.
If there is a word, or a Chinese character, that doesn’t contribute to your story, delete it. If there is a sentence that does not help readers understand your story, delete it. If there is a sentence that is too long, re-write it.
Secondly, use the character checkers to check if you’ve used any Chinese characters that are not included in the list of 320. Check both of the title and the body of your story.
Chances are that you might have. You need to think what other words you can use to replace the existing ones.
- Re-write the story
Re-writing is common among writers. Stephen King, one the most famous of them, gave some fabulous advice on how to re-write.
King suggests taking at least six weeks before you start to re-write. Using this period of time to distance yourself from your work, so you can read your work more objectively. He also suggests asking yourself big-picture questions. What is the theme? Is the story coherent?
Since Chinese Writing Contest requires short form writings, you probably don’t need six weeks. One or two weeks should be sufficient for you to read your story with fresh eyes.
At this time, the big-picture questions are absolutely necessary.
If the story is coherent, there are only minor issues. Fix them.
If the story is not coherent, you must go back to the drawing board and start all over again.
Another possibility is that when you’re reading your story with fresh eyes, a better theme/story comes to mind. If that happens, go back to the outline and re-start writing.
After you’re satisfied with your work, ask someone you trust to read it. Get the feedback and decide whether or not you want to edit it some more.
Use these five steps to help you write a well crafted story in a simple and clear way that your readers will love to read.