Monday, September 23, 2013

25 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING IN 30 MINUTES A DAY – BRIAN A KLEMS

As you all know, one of my favorite ‘blog heists’ come from Brian A. Klems and the following article posted August 23, 2011 is no exception.  I’ll share it in four installments.  This information is worth sharing and keeping.  J  Rita Karnopp
The best writers never stop striving for ways to write better. Here, five masters of the craft share their secrets for honing the essentials, one technique at a time.
1. Flow

A piece of writing is a living thing. Our goal should be to serve it and do what it wants, to be its instrument. The flow of words from our mind to the page is impeded in two main ways—if we try to make the story do something that it doesn’t want to do, or if something in us isn’t ready to face the full implications of the work’s theme and emotions.

Avoiding those blocks requires developing a relationship with the piece we’re working on, as if it were a person. At the start of each writing session, especially if you’re having trouble moving forward, literally ask your work-in-progress, “What do you want to do? Where do you want me to go with you? Why are you stalling?” This is a psychological trick that almost always creates an imagined response, along the lines of, “This scene is boring. Why are you making me do it?” Or, “This section is full of gimmicks. Why aren’t you being true to the subject?” The device takes only one minute, not 30, and over the years, it’s saved me from writing a lot of passages that would have been either unnecessary or else dishonest.
—David Morrell
2. Precision
In the study of traditional Chinese painting, the term hua long dian jing speaks to the need for precision. It translates roughly to mean, “Dot the dragon’s eye, and it comes to life.” In other words, your subject remains inert until you add the precise detail that brings it, in the reader’s mind, to life. Often when we finish a draft, we feel the piece somehow isn’t working. Our writing group says they found it dull in places, or just “didn’t get it.” The culprit is often a lack of precision—the key, specific details that bring the world of the piece alive.
Develop the habit of dedicating time to reviewing your work with precision in mind. How would that scene change if you add a sweet tang of honeysuckle to the breeze? How might this character change if you fasten the top button of his shirt? Henry James told us that writers are people “on whom nothing is lost.” The key to successfully creating or conveying worlds for our readers is painstakingly observing those worlds, and then scribbling down the precise details that tell the story.
—Jack Heffron
3. Voice
Your voice is how you write, the way you handle language, your style—if you have one. Do I? I write like I think. I like spontaneity. I push and pull, change speed and rhythm, balance short and long sentences. I compare it to jazz riffs and drumrolls. I’m economical with words, but I won’t interrupt a nice solo.
I never have to think about this. It’s me.
But does it rise to the level of “voice”—and does it even matter? I’ve known excellent writers who don’t have a recognizable voice, but have earned awards and attracted readers through their work. Your voice, ultimately, will be what comes out of you. And you’re entitled to it. But how you use it will also depend upon the audience at which it’s aimed and/or the market to which it’s sold.
The desire to develop a voice of your own may make you wish you could write like some others you’ve read. Feel no guilt; all artists stand on the shoulders of those they admire. Thus, for 30 minutes: Rewrite a page of your writing in the style of someone you admire. Don’t worry about losing yourself in the process—you’ll be doing just the opposite.
—Art Spikol
4. Originality
It is perhaps ironic that the exercise I consider most useful to spur originality is one I borrowed from another writer (William S. Burroughs). Then again, the best advice I ever received on writing in general was Oakley Hall’s two-word bromide: Steal Wisely.
In truth, originality is like voice, an elusive quality that cannot be created; it exists or it doesn’t, all you can do is hone it. But we can also strive to look at our own world and work in a fresh way. If you’re in a rut, change something in your routine. Write in a different place; write longhand; dictate into a recorder; switch point of view; remove every modifier in your text and start over—something.
Or, try this: Print out a page of your writing, cut it into quarters and rearrange them. Retype the text in this quasi-jumbled state. Where before your logical brain laid things out in an orderly fashion, you’ll now see them in jump cuts and inexplicable juxtapositions. Return to your work and revise with the best of these angularities intact, to the point they serve the piece, without reordering them back into comfortable reasonableness. Honor the deeper, inherent logic of your work by allowing its quirks and hard edges to show.
—David Corbett
5. Imagery
A successful image can plug right into your reader’s nervous system at times when explanation falls flat. Consider, “Donna felt weak,” versus, “Donna was unable to bring the spoon to her mouth.” Which one makes you want to know what happens next?

To see how images give your writing a boost, rewrite each of the following statements in a way that shows instead of explains:
·         Her hair was a mess.
·         The garden was ready for picking.
·         I hate broccoli.
·         You always change your mind.
·         The moon is full.

Now, revisit a draft of your writing. Try making vague moments more vivid by replacing explanation with imagery. This won’t always be an appropriate solution—sometimes a simple, unembellished statement will be the most powerful choice. But you won’t know until you try.
—Sage Cohen

2 comments:

Roseanne Dowell said...

Thanks for the great writing tips. Even though I've heard these several times before I still need to refresh my memory sometimes.

Rita Karnopp said...

memory ?? say what? I love reminders, too. I usually chuckle when someone says they are going to sit down and write a book next month. Hmmm, it's like gold panning - it sounds easy until you have to do it.

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