Saturday, May 23, 2009

How to Improve One’s English and Earn from One’s Writing Craft, Too!

I am taking the liberty of sharing in this blog a recent exchange about the writing craft that I had with readers of Jose Carillo’s English Forum, which I soft-launched recently at

ArvinOrtiz posted this question in the Forum: “Aside from professional writers, should other professionals learn how to write well?”

My answer was this:

Yes, absolutely! Of course, not everyone may possess or be able to develop the ability to write pieces that others would be willing to pay for to read, but it’s important to at least write clearly, accurately, and convincingly about one’s day-to-day needs, wants, and desires. In short, everyone must learn to communicate effectively in writing--not as an exercise of craft or art but as a means for getting oneself understood and for getting things done in a social setting.

Madgirl joined the exchange with this post:

“Yes, that’s right. That's what I need. Thanks for inviting me to this forum as there’s no more need for a close friend to come by and point out my common mistakes. The articles here are eye-opening enough, reminders for me to keep in my everyday life. Though there is no great pressure at work to speak perfect English, the guilt of making mistakes haunts me even at bedtime. Dear grammar and style doctor, what do we do to improve our speaking and writing abilities?

“I have been trying to contribute to some association journals for many years now, and I noticed how effective the hobby is to improving my writing style. My chosen essay topics range from gardening, mothering, traveling and managing stress in life. Short stories just talked about my everyday observations in my new cultural society. It's just nice to hear some people say that they’ve read my articles and enjoyed my narrations. You must be so happy here to be always receiving good remarks for your writing, Mr. Carillo. I’d like to say that you are my idol.

"My question now is--how do we 'earn' at the same time try to improve our writing skills? I am quite confused whether to continue with my 'odd writing' or not. I confess, I have started writing some romance short stories (well, not just romance, but super romance...ero....) to just a few readers in the hope that I could improve my description style, [like by] adding suspense and correctly positioning the climax... Oh I’m so sorry! I just realized that this writing exercise is risky but it surely catches the target audience’s attention. Now, my problem is, they keep clamoring for more.

"Could you recommend a good writer for this genre?"

And here’s my reply to Madgirl:

Thanks for the compliment! I just try to share with people what I have learned over the years about the English language.

To earn and to continue to improve your writing at the same time, write about the things you love and enjoy thinking about and like discovering more about. Someday you’ll become so good at it that you’d find a sizable enough audience that’s willing to pay for what you write. Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code did it by bashing organized religion, and even if some linguists consider him such a bad English-language stylist, he shook the world like crazy and is now laughing all the way to the bank and to Hollywood.

And if it’s erotica that’s your cup of tea, who says that it’s not a good idea to make a living out of it? Hundreds of women writers all over the world do, and I think their productions of romance novels and other entertainments outnumber those of their male counterparts by a ratio of 80:20. Think Jacqueline Susann! Think Danielle Steele! Think Emily Loring! Think Barbara Cartland!

Their works may not be great literature, but their diversions for their kindred had developed such a huge market worldwide that each of them had become an industry by herself. Their social value is, of course, that they enable women all over the world to while away their cares and forget about their day-to-day tribulations, and I think the bookstores would be gasping for air if women writers like them suddenly decided to stop production and just become plain housewives themselves for the rest of their lives.

So, Madgirl, I suggest you stop getting mad about your lot as a struggling writer. Just keep on writing until you get so comfortable with your subject that your readers would really enjoy what you say and would look forward to reading more from you.


  1. Sir Jose, I'll add your blog to my blogroll.

  2. My pleasure! Please go right ahead.

  3. I used to write for a city newspaper here in the UAE. I had worked for a real estate publication too, as well as for an interior design magazine. I thought that there was no other way for me to learn and master English but to continuously read and write using it.

    Unfortunately, my former classmate told me that my proficiency in the language hadn't improve in the last two years. I still commit the same grammatical mistakes he has noticed me made in college! It didn't help that most of the people I had worked with were nonnative speakers of the language like me.

    These days, I continue reading and writing at home. I also watch English-language channels whenever possible. Are there other ways I could do? I would like to be better with it when I can work again.