Tag Archives: Cormac McCarthy

To Ly Word or Not to Ly Word: Writing Real Good. I Mean It. (Part 2)

I’ve had the chance to listen to Lance Larsen  speak several times about writing jaw-dropping sentences. If you ever have a chance to hear Lance speak or read or speak and read, GO! You’ll not be disappointed.

Why do you read?

I read, not just for story, but for the way the sentences of a novel sound. I read to see the way an author puts words together. To see the way I am surprised–not just by plot–but by sentence structure or word choice.

Lance has several suggestions for jaw-dropping sentences and I’ll share one: turn the adjective on its ear. Here’s what I think he means. If every word must do work, then that includes adjectives. Lance suggests making adjectives work in new ways, in ways that paint pictures the reader isn’t expecting. Easy writing isn’t always the smartest, best, clearest, most beautiful etc. It tends to be filled with cliches and overwritten and weak. Good writing, of course, takes place in rewriting. BUT if you’re thinking as you write (some people do), you can put better words on the page the first time through and refine as you rewrite.

Exercise: Look at your first five pages. Trying not to love what you’ve written, start trimming. Adverbs. Adjectives. Weak verbs. Weak words. Cliches. Was-ing words. The words I put up on Monday. Description that’s stale. Etc.

What do you have left? If you’ve been honest, your story should be far thinner.

Exercise: Using these new five pages, write this beginning over in short, choppy lines. (If you need an example, look at my novel GLIMPSE. Or read any of Ann Dee Ellis’ novels.) This is just an exercise, so enjoy the line breaks and be intentional when you add or take away words. Make each stanza have hard-working words so you accomplish more with less.

Exercise: Look at your rewritten five pages (which should be far longer, page-wise). Is there sense of place? Strong dialog? Description that is fresh? Are your words working hard? Is there emotion?

Exercise: Lay this rewritten piece aside for a week. When you go back, see how to change it into regular prose. How do the five pages read now? Can you keep writing this way? Can you do the same thing with the next five pages and the next and the next?

Exercise: Read a book that is known to have strong writing. (I suggest The Road. Or at least part of it.) What do you learn from this author? How does s/he make sentence sparkle? How can you imitate her/him.

So, Writing Brothers and Sisters, have fun. Remember writing is hard work. Good writing is even harder. But there is joy in having written. There is excitement in finding a fresh way to say something. Enjoy the experience!


Filed under Life, Voice, writing process

On Death and Turning Fifty

by Cheri Pray Earl

I started a new blog when I turned fifty-five in October. Funny how staring sixty right in the naval can inspire you to dismiss that snotty poet who lives in your head. The one who says, “Isn’t it bad enough you can’t write poetry? Now you’re writing a genre novel? On a BLOG?!” My poet is a man, by the way. He also doesn’t approve of that exclamation point I just used.

Yes, I’m writing a genre novel. A murder mystery. Out loud. Scene by scene, chapter by chapter on a blog. Because I love murder mysteries. I read them like I eat candy—right off the shelf. I sit in the car in the library parking lot, reading the first chapter. I watch murder movies and murder television series for hours on end and listen to my mother’s heinous “true stories” of murder and mayhem.  Crime fiction is my barrel of meal, my cruise of oil. My shelf Twinkies because I don’t mind if the books and movies and TV series are not good for me and offend my literary sensibilities with lots of nutty dialog tags and adverbs. My poet says my analogies are goosey. Sometimes I shake my head real hard and knock him around in there.

Do you know why I decided, after all these years, to write a mystery novel? Mortality. Menopause. Because I want to give it a shot before I die. Life is short, as they say, and too short to listen to poets. Poets, by the way, talk about death a lot in their poems. Billy Collins once said that all poems are about death. I asked him what he meant and he explained that everything is about death, isn’t it? Since we will all die. Anne Lamott, on the other hand, says that because we are all going to die there’s no point in writing about it. What is worth writing about is how men and women live in the face of death. American writers should be willing to let a novel end well, she says, rather than in tragedy or worse, unresolved.

I also believe that every writer should have the experience, at least once, of writing what he or she loves to read. If that’s possible. For instance, besides genre murder mysteries I love Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Annie Proulx’s Shipping News. I doubt I’ll ever write the way they do because I don’t think the way they do, even though I try; that’s brain-melting work. A murder mystery, however, is just plain fun. My poet raises an eyebrow over that one—writing should depress you and force that inappropriate psychological disorder into the open and then make you brood a lot. He doesn’t like me using “a lot,” either.

QUALIFYING EXPLANATION: When I say write something fun, I don’t mean that a fun story can’t also be beautiful. It can be and should be. I can write a beautiful murder mystery if I try. Maybe. We shall see.
So today I told my daughter that she should stop trying to revise that serious, literary, depressing short story she wrote in “Introduction to Creative Writing” at Brigham Young University. She had become discouraged because she had no story; what she had was an abstract philosophy and some pretty words on the page. I told her to give herself permission to write something fun. “Write a clown scene instead,” I said. She smiled because she knew what I meant; the scene popped into her head in full color and live action. This. Is. Where. She. Lives. In her hilarious imaginings, anyway. And this is what she loves—quirky humor.

Talking all over each other, we described the scene—clowns wearing fezzes and big red rubber noses practicing their act and having dialogs about how to cram twenty of themselves in a VW Bug and someone’s got to take the lead of this insanity in the center ring of a circus tent before the matinee begins. Then we laughed about that one scene in Uncle Buck where the professional clown comes to the door and Buck answers it and the clown is drunk and dressed in a clown suit but he has a major five o’clock shadow and he drove to the house for a kids’ party in a VW Bug decked out like a mouse. Buck tells him to get in his mouse and leave but the clown says “Who are you, Mother Theresa?” Then Buck punches the clown in the rubber nose and the clown falls backward but bounces back up like that Bozo the Clown punching thingy and his nose is all caved in.

Hahahahahahhahahaha! That’s what we said. “Low hanging fruit” is what my poet says and he walks off to write a poem about death with a superior but brooding look on his face.
There you have it.


Filed under CLW, Depression, Family, Life, Voice, writing process

Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

Cormac McCarthy. How you amaze my brain.
I finally finished The Road at work yesterday.
Holy Crapolla.
What a fantastic novel.
The writing….just…amazing.
How can you have such little dialogue, yet still know your characters so well?
How did he do that?
People are magic with their words. It’s amazing.
I suggest everyone read it. DON’T watch the  movie. It was a waste of time and very dull. {And not just because nasal guy Vejo Morgenstein is in it(That is an Always Sunny in Philadelphia joke..)}
There was something about the little boy in the story that I just loved. He sounded so sweet and so…broken? But yet not? I don’t know.
This is the only book I’ve read written by McCarthy. But I have seen No Country for Old Men. {That is a movie you DO want to watch. Freaking amazing!}
Has anyone read the book? Is it as good as The Road?
What about his other novels?
I need to order more books.
Amazon gave me the 100 free downloads for the kindle. Or whatever it is.
Holy crap. I can’t believe how hilarious some of the books were on that. {hilariously awful.}
Okay that’s enough.
Let’s all be happy.


Filed under Kyra, Voice, writing process

Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

Let’s all read a book together.
Something that makes us smarter than we were when we picked up the book.
When I find a love, I’m going to read to him. And then we will be happy for ever and after. And then die. But that won’t matter because we’ll have read some awesome books.
I’m worried about Mom.
She needs a lot of crossed fingers. And holy heyoh’s or whatever.
Seriously though.
Let’s all keep her on our list of good-vibe thoughts. She’s the best person in the world.
I love her.
I have court on Monday.
When I went to discuss the ticket I received, the people at the place actually told me they they thought I was 17. After they learned I was much much much older than that, then did they actually take me a little bit more seriously.
I’m glad I’m not 17 anymore…because then people wouldn’t ever take me seriously.
I don’t think I’m serious enough.
I do have to say I’ve been very  happy lately. Happy about life. Happy the sun is coming back. Happy just being alive.
Maybe it’s because I’m reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
Or because I started Breaking Bad over.
My life kicks butt compared to those lives.
Although I did accidentally wear ripped tights this morning. {What a STRUGGLE!}
My roommate’s car has died in front of the mail box. The mail man left him a little note this morning.
“Don’t park here!”
Pretty scary stuff.
Scary for me though, because, I’m expecting a very very very important and overpriced package. If the car is parked there he {The Mailman} might not deliver it.
Does anyone know anything about cellos?
I’m going to rent one and take lessons I think.
But I’m not going to do it until I finish this draft from this current novel I’m working on.
I should really look into finding a writers group. See if it helps me motivate myself. {Helps me motivate myself? That is confusing.}
Every time Mom drives past my store, she honks. I know it’s her.
She loves me.
I love her.
She’s the best mom ever.
The End.
{Very informative!}


Filed under CLW, Family, Kyra, Life, writing process