School may have ended for me years ago, but I still receive a report card. This report card is not in academics, but in writing. Who then, is my teacher? The author of the book that I am reading – Sol Stein. The book that I am reading is a writing course and the chapters are sections. For each section, I learn the principles that every good writer should practice. And during each section, I pause and think about the writing that I have done in the past. How am I doing? Are my grades up to par with what I have been learning in this book?
In my pursuit to find out the answer to this troubling question, I started developing my own report card. It is basically a checklist to see whether or not I have been implementing these practices into my fiction and nonfiction works. The material for my checklist can be found in Sol Stein’s book “Stein on Writing”. And if you are interested in buying this book, you can head over to Amazon and buy it here.
This report card/checklist will only be finished when the book is. And for those who can get straight A’s on this report card, they are well on their way to getting a bestseller. And for those who can already write well, perhaps you already have mostly A’s, but a few B’s. But those few B’s could be the very thing separating you from selling a lot more books. All you would need to do is turn those B’s into A’s and the results speak for themselves. This is not magic. This is a set of different techniques that have been tried and perfected over time. Readers are not going to waste their time on a book that is stale and uninteresting. If their attention cannot be grabbed by page one, they will return the book to its shelf. It’s that first sentence that is critical to arousing their curiosity. That first paragraph. And none of this content can be on page two. By then, you will have already lost them.
So that first sentence is important, and I have included a few items pertaining to this on my report card. Is the narrative hook established? Does the first sentence contain an interesting personality or an action is conveyed that we want to know more about? Is there something unusual or shocking that happens that surprises the reader? If the answer is no to any one of these questions, it is back to the bookshelf. Good luck selling that book.
And that is only the tip of the iceberg. There are several other items that I have on the report card. My goal is to make it comprehensive, covering a variety of different lessons learned in the book. Each section will have its own grade. Characterization, plotting, dialogue, suspense, crucibles and everything else pertinent to making a fiction or nonfiction work successful.
The report card won’t be done for a while, as I am only about a sixth of the way through the book. I’m currently reading about characters and characterization. So far, I’m learning a great deal about what I need to do to improve on my writing.
Ghost Muse: Since I read a lot, I know good writing when I see it.
Good. Then you can detect what is not good in my current writing.
Ghost Muse: I can already tell you that it’s lacking and it needs more work.
Indeed it does. That’s the reason for the report card. I can evaluate my progress as I go and work on improving it.
Ghost Muse: In the meantime, I will work on a reading report card and rate the content of all the books I have read so far. I’m surely going to be busy. Bye!
It’s time for me to begin the evaluation. I may not be done with the report card, but I can rate myself on the points that I made so far. I will report my findings tomorrow.
Today’s high is going to be 54 degrees and the silver lining is being able to hone my craft.
To those of you who are looking to improve your skills, I hope that you all have a fantastic day.
Muse: Your books are rubbish. I only read bestsellers, and nothing less! And speaking of reading, I want to read a book in my garden. The only problem with that is that I don’t have a garden yet, since I’m out of room. Your Tangible planet would be perfect for my garden! Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!