Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Good Writer, Bad Writer" on AAK!

The Korean frequently receives questions along the lines of: "I think your writing is great? How do I become a good writer?" For a few times, he has tried writing a post in response to such questions, and felt too embarrassed to continue. To be sure, the Korean does have a number of principles and guideposts in his mind when he writes. He does strive to be a better writer each time. But the truth is that his writing is still much lower quality than he would prefer. Because this blog is a hobby, he never does put in the amount of effort that he feels sufficient. Consequently, a reader with sharp eyes can usually find persistent errors and rooms for improvement in the Korean's writing. So it felt a bit silly to talk about how to write well, when he was not even living up to his own standards.

Luckily, Mr. Shawn Doyle, who is a writing teacher, has been generous enough to use my recent post, Culturalism, Gladwell and Airplane Crashes as an example of effective writing. At his blog, Good Writer, Bad Writer, Mr. Doyle has reproduced the post, and kindly provided a play-by-play on the rhetorical strategy that the Korean has employed as he wrote the post. If you happened to be one of the folks who thought the Korean's writing was worth emulating, the post at Good Writer, Bad Writer would be helpful.

One tip that the Korean would give about writing is: have an arsenal of several esteemed writers whose style you can emulate depending on the purpose of your writing. For the purpose of the Culturalism post, the Korean was consciously trying to write like Chief Justice John Roberts, who is considered one of the greatest writers that the Supreme Court has seen since Robert Jackson. I think Justice Roberts writes  like a freight train coming down a hill. At first, the train would be stationary, sitting on top of the hill with no freight on it. Justice Roberts would begin his writing by adding freight piece by piece onto that train. After a certain point, the train would start slowly rolling downward, unable to bear its own weight any longer. By the time the train reaches the bottom of the hill--i.e. the conclusion of his writing--it moves with such momentum and speed that makes the conclusion undeniable. 

The Korean knows this style is effective because he usually disagrees with the legal points that Justice Roberts makes. So it feels amazing (and a bit infuriating) when he finishes reading an opinion by Justice Roberts, and feels halfway convinced of the Justice's arguments before snapping out of it. Accordingly, the Korean attempts to deploy this style when he tries to write a strongly opinionated piece. Based on the reception the post had, it appears that the strategy worked this time.

Thank you very much, Mr. Doyle, and thank you everyone for reading.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. Very good TK, it's worth a while if someone appreciates your writing and show how to deconstruct their hypothesis.


  2. What was understandably left out of the Korean's response, but equally (if not more?) important, is the ability to reason well and organize one's thought in the first place. The Korean does this well. Complete with well-honed writing skills, it's why I hold his opinions in high regard and, in turn, follow this blog. Cheers!

    1. Agree, but there are tricks that might help you organise your mind. You know, the brainstormings, cluster maps etc. One might not need them, but they're a good start if you feel pressure from your let's call it "thoughts disorder".
      Also, it is important to read again and then once again the text once it's finished, before publishing it. Of course, you need to take a break first before doing so.

  3. It is not wise to call a story "complete" nor is it wise to presume any story is no longer susceptible to improvement. To do so is giving any author too much credit.

    Rather, authors sieve through their story (in the way they see fit for themselves) and finally arrive at a precarious "mode of narration" in which the story fulfills their private criteria for excellence, and even then, many authors are not fully satisfied though the story may very well go on to be published.

    Your story is fluid and sentient. To "finish" it is to kill it. Even after you have completed the version you intend to market, you must continue to allow it to live.

    1. Interesting thoughts.
      Perhaps this is why many authors make the audience itself to go on and continue the story. Because publishing has limitations, but fantasy and thinking has none.

  4. The way you described the feeling you get from Justice Roberts' writing is interesting to me, because it's often how I feel when I read your blog. I disagree with you on just about everything politically, but I frequently find myself almost halfway convinced when I read your take on certain things.

    While I don't usually agree with The Korean's conclusion, I at least sometimes find his arguments compelling enough to take into account when looking at the larger picture. You often present aspects of the issue that I've never read anywhere else, so it gives me something new to think about.


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