How to be a best writer

September Writing Corner: The Best Writers

Sharing Stories
September 2, 2023 at 2:32 p.m.
Leif Gregerson: Example of a Best Writer and storyteller, as well as a wonderful member of a writing group!
Leif Gregerson: Example of a Best Writer and storyteller, as well as a wonderful member of a writing group! Ariele M. Huff

Writing Corner September 2023
The Best Writers

The best writers defend their choices and products. All “Best Writers” have a unique voice. When you are reading Thurber, you know you’re reading Thurber. Same with Poe, Alice Walker, Dickens, Betty MacDonald, David Sedaris, etc. 

On the other side, the best writers always consider change. They’ve improved their writing continuously and know the value of eradicating misdirection…unless, of course, purposeful errors are part of their style. For example, Gertrude Stein with her “continuous present” which detractors pointed out were “run-on sentences” but what she defended as “presenting a flowing continuity.”

Many famous authors have chosen this way to add to the distinctive quality of their work. All lower-case letters distinguished Don Marquis’s archie and mehitabel. Modernist poet, e e cummings often used the same strategy for his name and sometimes his poems. However, he also used capitals when he wanted to. JRR Tolkien, invented whole languages and rules for using them.

Best writers know they must thoroughly learn the accepted way to do things with words, letters, punctuation, and other parts of grammar before they decide to purposely break rules. This strategy only works when it does not look like a mistake.  

Best writers seem to write mostly for themselves, not taking audience reaction as much into consideration as those “word movers” who struggle for applause. My favorite example of this is the rumor that William Faulkner’s grave was opened by a frustrated reader of The Sound and the Fury. The story goes that the interloper thought Faulkner might have taken the secret to his grave—whether Quentin ever had sex with his sister. There seems to be no proof of the site being excavated, but it is true that the novel is built around disclosures that lead you to believe “yes” and then those that lead to “no.” Good book—super frustrating not to have an answer. He probably had a good laugh wherever he was—which many readers enjoyed imagining as uncomfortably hot. I was satisfied by indignantly pitching the book against a wall.

However, I too demonstrate the qualities of a “Best Writer.” The twist that I defend and don’t change is to honor being accessible to readers, in conversation with them always. I prefer dialogue to keeping secrets.

Other Best Writers like to argue this point with me though, they nod to my vocab, cadence, clever twists, and even my rank stubborn insistence on my choice…even though it is to please the unread as well as experts. That was Shakespeare’s particular slant also, and a case could be made for Mozart’s work too.

Thanks to “Worst Author” for the title idea and to Alice for her charming persistence in elevating the concept of daunting the reader who may or may not care for a game of chess which s/he cannot win. A Best Writer always likes to win…which does titillate, even captivate, many readers. It is a private agreement with excellence that raises self-esteem when comprehension is achieved. Not the worst gift a writer can deliver. 

Ariele Huff leads a ZOOM Ancient Healing Tools for Modern Stress group on Wednesdays 4:30 to 5:30pm, a ZOOM writing group Thursdays 3 to 4:30pm, and Writers Round Table on Fridays 1 to 2:30pm. Connect for a list of online classes or to join one of the ZOOMs.  

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