November 5, 2013

Reading, Writing and Webpage Ranking

Dear M,

We can learn different things from different books. Our mind is tuned like an antenna towards the right signals. But since we do not know which the right signals are, we receive everything and then we have to process it.

A few thoughts arise from this.

The first is about a novel I am reading. It is almost as though I am learning from a text book. There are so many lessons in it. It is a story, but my antenna is tuned to these literary lessons embedded in it - on character development, show-not-tell, premise, the touch of superstition and fantasy, the convincing narration, plot development. Speaking of plot, I have read up to page 90 of the 500 page book. But I still do not know what the plot is, where the story is headed. The title does not reveal anything, and there is no blurb anywhere. So I am plodding on, hoping that the theme will make its appearance soon. So far I have been introduced to plenty of characters with very vivid descriptions and idiosyncrasies. I do not know which of them are important to the story, and how many will vanish after introduction. Maybe their purpose was just to introduce us to someone else or to set the premise or to move the story forward. But I am not bored yet, and I plan to continue reading until I am either bored or I figure out where all this will end up.

The second thought is that, poor writing influences us as much as good writing does. Our antenna pulls those in too. And unknowingly we imbibe that style. We need to be open to all kinds of writing, because there is a lesson in each - the lesson from poor writing will be that I can write better than this. This is not how it could have been written. I could make these changes and make it look better.

Yet another thought is about Alexa ranking. Surprised? Let me explain. Every blogger is concerned about his/her page rank. Everyone reads up on how to improve their rank. There is something I have read over and over again: if your website is linked to from higher ranking sites, the better are your chances of improving your ranking. If poor sites link to you, it could even cause you harm. I may have put it in a crude way and SEO experts will tell you more about it, but this is the general idea. Apply it to reading. If we read good books, our writing would certainly improve. If we read poorly written, poorly edited, poorly presented books, they would pull our own style down.

If we think about books we have read in our teenage, we would barely remember anything about the writing. We remember the story, a little something about the characters or perhaps only the protagonist, a vague scene of greenery or desert or rocky mountains. But the writing? Character development? Very little or none. As time passed, and we began to try our hand at writing, we became conscious of these, the tools used by other writers.

We're constantly learning.


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