The biggest hurdle in any kind of writing is learning how to format appropriately. Every type of writing has its own format, and if done wrong, it screams amateur. While it’s always good to have wonderful, original ideas, learning the appropriate format of the genre is one of the best things any writer can do.
I’m starting some new classes, and I’ve just discovered that I need to write my final papers in APA format. Well, I’ve only ever written MLA papers, so, I’m in for a fun adventure. I know that learning a new format can be a challenge and intimidating. However, I can promise that the format is important. For me, it will determine my grade. In other genres, the format plays a big role in getting the message across to the reader correctly.
I can’t say how long it took me to learn the format for fiction. I’ve been reading books since kindergarten, and really got into novels in third and fourth grade. Reading is one of the best ways to learn the format. However, there are still rules that I haven’t figured out. I have to study out the wording I use to figure out what kind of punctuation I use with dialogue. While I have yet to differentiate between rules and opinion on commas and semicolons, I do feel like I have a good hold on the format of novels.
Poetry is another story. We went through the poetry section in high school, and I took a poetry class in college. What I learned is that there are hundreds of rules for the format of poetry and all of them are breakable according to the artistic choices of the poet. Therefore, I don’t write poetry, because I can’t figure out how the format works.
Screenplays have their own format that I was able to learn fairly quickly. Little aspects were hard to get used to, like writing in present tense. But overall, the format of screenplays is all about being direct and visually descriptive. Everything is broken up in chunks and kind of labelled in almost a technical type of writing.
Each type of format is distinct and different, and they are each perfect for what they need to accomplish. This can relate to differences in people, and it can also relate to our personal habits. There are formulas for all kinds of things, and it pays to learn them. Once the structure of a format is understood, you almost have no limits. Take the time to understand and learn the format, then the rest is your creativity.