From Cheryl Van Eck
In rereading ON WRITING by Stephen King, one passage really stood out to me. He spoke about “killing your darlings,” or getting rid of any words or sentences that don’t work. For me, that always meant cutting out the parts you liked, but weren’t actually any good. However, for him, it means cutting anything that doesn’t contribute effectively to the story, whether it’s good or bad.
“Certainly I couldn’t keep it in on the grounds that it’s good,” he writes, “it should be good, if I’m being paid to do it. What I’m not being paid to do is be self-indulgent.”
This struck me in a new way. If I’m expecting to be paid, everything I write should be good. Instead of finding ways to rationalize why a certain passage should stay in (“But my writing group thought it was funny!”), I should be focused on making every word worthy of payment. Each word needs to submit to a higher power…which, in this case, is the almighty Story.
As Carol always says, “Pretend you have to pay a dollar for every word you use…then see how carefully you choose your words.”
Speaking of the devil–From Carol
Writing a novel in poetry (THE BRAID) or short choppy lines (my novel GLIMPSE) means thinking of all the words you use. Each is weighted. Each plays an important part. There is very little to throw away.
Take an important section of your book.
Rewrite in short sentences.
Think Ann Dee’s work EVERYTHING IS FINE.
Play with structure.
Cut excess words.
What do you have when you’re finished? Do you like it? Does the novel lend itself to this kind of style? What have you learned?
From Brenda Bensch
A couple of months ago in an issue of Writer’s Digest, I saw a photograph of three people – at least two of them were children – walking hand-in-hand along a snowy path between trees. The misty air in front of them obscured whatever may have lain at the end of their path. Readers had been invited to write the first sentence of a new story based on the photo, where the ten “best” openings were published.
It made me think of a good exercise: using an old favorite painting, print, or photograph hanging in your home (or something from an art book, magazine, newspaper, whatever) write ten one-sentence beginnings to new stories. Which three sentences are the best? If you’re brave, show them to relatives, friends, or your critique group, and get their votes. Which one fires the most interest in you, the writer? Which one could be a good short story, poem or even the beginning of a novel?