Tag Archives: writing well

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!

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To Ly Word or Not to Ly Word: Writing Real Good. No. I Mean It. (Part 1)

In writer’s group (a million years ago), an author read her work aloud. The story was a fantasy and while the plot might have been interesting, it got lost in the words.

That can happen, you know. Too many words. Too many weak words. Too many throw away words.

Your words should work for you. Hard.

“If you do these few things,” I said, offering suggestions because we were in writer’s group, trying to be better writers, “you’ll strengthen the writing. Everything will be more clear. Cleaner.”

“Oh,” she said, waving me off. “My genre excuses bad writing.”

My eyeballs fell on the floor and rolled under an arm chair.

Another published writer in that same group said to suggested changes from us, “That’s what my editor’s for. To catch these mistakes.” We had offered suggestions because we were in writer’s group, trying to be better writers. Get it?

At Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers my hope is every writer learns how to be the best writer she can be. Writing well is a process. I always strive to form tight, strong sentences. I want to be better. We can never know too much.

(Here’s an argument from William Faulkner.  “Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.”)

“But, said another writing friend of mine, “you know readers are blind to style.”

That may be, Writing Brothers and Sisters, but at this point, I’m still not. And so as long as I write, I plan to write the best I can. And this week on TUW, I wanna talk about a few tips. Here’s one for today.

My mother said, “If you have to pay a dollar for every word you put on the page, you’d trim your writing and use only the best language.” Mark Twain said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

You can cut some of these words, too–that, well, start, begin, just, was-ing words

Question: What words are throw aways in your opinion?

TO BE CONTINUED

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One Pound of Gold Hidden Where?

If you were going to hide gold, where would you put it?

I have to admit, I love gold.

A lot.

And our writing, when done well, is as shiny as gold.

That’s my goal: to write as well as possible.

#45

Your writing prompt today is reading.

Read this great article, and maybe even buy the book.

http://www.openculture.com/2015/05/10-writing-tips-from-legendary-writing-teacher-william-zinsser.html

I love William Zinsser. I’ve never read this book, but I know I would love what he says here, as I believe these ten hints are genius.

PS Check out the links below the article for more things to read before you write today.

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Filed under CLW, Exercises, Life, writing process

Three Things Thursday–

From Brenda Bensch:
1. Yesterday I had lunch at the Olive Garden in Valley Fair Mall with 6 of my former debate students from Cyprus HS. They are now in, or quickly approaching, their 30’s. We’d done this two or three times before, but not in the last five years. It was good to see them, hear about their triumphs (there were many), their challenges (also, quite a few), and how they’re all doing now.
If you could invite 6 old friends to join you for lunch, who would they be? How far back do you go? How had you impacted their lives? How had they impacted yours? (On Facebook today I commented on how “loud” we all were. One of them answered that I’d taught them “to project”! Guilty.)
Write about an imaginary lunch with your former friends.
Write about your MC’s invitation to lunch. Who would s/he invite? What were the concomitant impacts of all on each other?
From Me
2. I looked up Top Romance Novels of all times and got titles like Pride and Prejudice, Outlander and Jane Eyre. But what are some terrific young adult romances? Perfect Chemistry, Anna and the French Kiss, and Beautiful Disaster were top books when I looked in that category. As I searched through the titles, I felt a little disheartened. Many seemed one dimensional.  I did see Fault in Our Stars. And lots of books by Utah authors (always a good thing). But many of the books weren’t what I would want to spend my time with. And I love a good romance.
And saw these words:  The romance novel or romantic novel is a literary genre.
After twisting things around in my head, I thought–‘We can write well-written love stories. Stories that aren’t only romance but life and good things and hard things and fun things, too. Where people change and the outcome is for better or worse.’
You know. Like Louise Plummer in some of her amazing young adult novels–which have romance in them for sure. But real life told well.
From Me and Ann Dee
3. So Ann Dee sent me a whole bunch of stuff that we should include in our romance stories.
For today– Write an opening scene with your main character.  Start the story on the day something new happens. Not something huge–necessarily. But something is different. In This is What I Did: Logan  is kicked in the balls at scouts. In The Chosen One, Kyra knows their is a family meeting that evening. Neither are huge events.
The new thing doesn’t have to be a life changer.
In this scene, let us learn a little of place, a lot about the character, and a little about who she is on the inside. Let us see her dealing with the new thing that has happened today. Take as much time as you need. Don’t go back and change anything.
Put this with your other three exercises.
Tonight when you go to bed, think about your new character, this new situation, what she wants and see if anything pops into your head. Make sure you have paper and pencil next to the table.

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Filed under Character, CLW, Exercises, three thing thursday, writing process