Today’s writing advice comes from the department of “you should have learned this in high school, but didn’t.” Jesse Abraham Lucas isn’t just the advice giving sort. Instead of opining that somebody should start a website for the #PulpRev, he went out and did it.
The final form of this new site will take isn’t clear to me yet, but he has my support. And with a kickoff post like Prose That Flows, you can bet it’s going to be something special:
Tell me which sentence scans faster:
I ducked into the alleyway, squeezed off a few shots, and vaulted over a fence.
I ducked into the alleyway and, squeezing off a few shots, vaulted over a fence.
The first sentence is the correct answer.
We writers aren’t one trick ponies. We are readers first, drawn to write by a love of the language and a love of storytelling. While that gives us a breadth and depth of experience with the written word, many of us wind up ‘writing by ear’ in the same way that a guitarist might not be able to read music but can still play a jamming solo.
The problem here is that reading and writing really are two different skills. The former is passive and the latter is active. If you really want to become good at the latter, you have to spend time thinking about how you do what you do. Advice like Jesse brings helps make us all much more contentious and deliberate with our words and, in this case more importantly, our punctuation.
Here Jesse demonstrates not just a fluency with words, but a gift for explaining how to use them. The former can make for a decent writer, but the latter makes for a great writer and editor. And those are two skillsets that combine to elevate decent writing to a new level.