Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Lively Art of Writing by Lucile Vaughan Payne

I bought The Lively Art of Writing on the recommendation of a fellow Speech mom. She lamented the fact that the speeches she judges lack a good thesis statement and the resultant cohesiveness. Being the good homeschool mom that I am, I instantly went to Amazon and bought it.

That doesn't mean, however, I read it.

It's a small book, but somehow, it didn't look appetizing. Besides, I had a bunch of library books to get to first.

I took it to Hawaii when my library books didn't come in on time and spent a good day or two absorbing it.

Now I want to teach a class on writing. The small, little, dare I say, lively book, captured me and entertained me to boot. It dovetails in with the writing program, IEW, that we have been using. Although she gives grace where IEW lays down the law, she has a few rules of her own: Ban the word "there." Never use first-person.

Payne begins by teaching the basics of a thesis statement and how to formulate an effective one. She moves onto outlining by using a simple pro and con list related to your previously stated opinion. The structure of an outline is discussed, beginning with the inverted triangle introduction, block body paragraphs, and a triangle conclusion. The graphic representation clearly depicts the "right" way to write any essay.

Interspersed between chapters are review questions and assignments. If used in a classroom setting, I have no doubt they would be very effective. The chapters themselves are short little nuggets of wisdom, easily digestible and fun to read.

To summarize:
* Remove the "I believe" and "I think" statements and forcefully state an opinion.

* Create mental pictures when writing, relating details to the five senses.

* Use transition words and hooks between paragraphs.

* ACTION! Eschew the passive voice!

* Pattern the written word after the spoken word by varying sentence length and styles.

* Vary sentences by "stringing along" additional descriptive information, adding "periodic" additions within the sentence itself, or in other descriptive ways, expand sentences beyond their most reduced state.

* Keep the structure within a sentence parallel.

* Use dictionaries, thesauruses, metaphors, similes, and descriptive details. (I just broke the last rule.)

* When you have mastered the rules, you can break them. (See the sentence above.)

As I read, I shuttered to reflect on my previous writings. I'm quite certain that I have broken every dictate laid down and a few poor Lucile Vaughan Payne has yet to encounter. Hopefully, I am the better writer for her words.

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