Thursday, October 4, 2012


I watched the Presidential debate last night. Good stuff. President Obama relies heavily on a teleprompter and prepared speeches, and that showed in the debates. The local paper had a quote from a citizen here who is head of the Democratic party. This man's logic decided that because the president talked more than Mitt Romney, as in an actual measurement of time, he did better.

Literally, this man believes that the President of the United States won a debate simply by talking more. That was not the case. He was very rarely clear and concise, and he often defaulted to saying the same things over again, using sentences that were basically means of stalling and giving him time. Mitt Romney was concise. He used four words when four were needed, and he didn't stumble.

Believe it or not, you can actually learn a lot about writing from this.

I totally remember padding papers in college, or trying to. It doesn't work, because that is transparent and shows you didn't even try. At worst, it produces work that's lacking in substance and meaning. At best, it leaves you with prose that's just a bit purple. Making the case that your book is good, that it's worth reading, that it means something, means you probably shouldn't go on and on about what a flower looks like in detail, unless the plot pivots on it. Usually, it doesn't, and I've seen flowers before.

Another way a debate can teach you something about writing? Arguments.

When you are preparing for a formal debate, you have to take time to think about how your opponent will argue. You have to look at all angles, and understand their argument without necessarily accepting it. You have to know where they're coming from and why. You literally have to play devil's advocate with yourself. It still allows you to have a passionate belief in something, but it also causes you to view it rationally.

This helps you write because you get to think as the reader. While you won't necessarily be defending yourself in a fantasy novel about zombie elves in the court of Henry the VIII (though you might at some point; that's a pretty iffy plot right there), you do want to make sure you write clearly without over-explaining anything. They can't read your mind. When someone says "I didn't get this part..." you shouldn't be all "uh, duh, Edward VI totally is a zombie." You should have made it clearer. Thinking like your reader ahead of time will help.

So if you're in high school or college, and the opportunity is available, take a debate class. It's fun, it's brain stretching, and it will likely make you a clearer thinker and a better writer.

In other news, I wrote twelve pages today, and I am not exaggerating at all when I say that I feel like this raw draft could be finished this weekend.

I'm incredibly excited.

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