Monday, September 30, 2013

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

20. Evoking Emotion
Hemingway spoke of a story’s “sequence of motion and fact.” James M. Cain discussed “the algebra of storytelling: a + b + c + d = x.” What they meant was a sequence of incidents in a story that, if arranged correctly and dramatized vividly, will create a stimulus that compels the reader to feel the emotion the author is trying to create. Talking about emotions won’t compel a reader to feel them. “He felt sad” won’t make a reader feel sad. Instead, the reader must be made to feel the situations in the story, to experience what the characters experience; as a result, just as a sequence creates emotion in the characters, it will do the same in the reader. This is a case of stimulus-response.
Writers can achieve this effect if they take the sense of sight for granted and emphasize the other senses, thus crafting multidimensional descriptions and scenes. Details of sight alone almost always create a flat effect, so when revising, take a few minutes to make sure that each scene has at least one other sense detail. In this way, the reader becomes immersed in the story, feeling it rather than being told about it.
—Morrell
21. Figurative Language
Figurative language can enrich our writing, adding nuance and depth, like the addition of a harmony line to a melody. The right metaphor can enlarge our subject and offer our readers new ways of perceiving it. The risk involved, like adding a heavy sauce to your delicately flavored meal, is that the language can distract the reader and obscure your meaning rather than developing it. Figurative language calls attention to itself, can easily descend to cliché, and asks for the reader’s complicity, all of which could break your reader’s focus.
My advice, therefore, is to use figurative language sparingly, strive to make it fresh, and understand the implications of the comparisons you’re making (directly or indirectly). Make sure it’s serving the piece. In creating an effective metaphor, trust your subconscious, which makes connections our conscious minds cannot readily make. Don’t reach for the quick, easy one. Instead, take the time to plumb the depths of your imagination. Risk a reach toward an unlikely comparison rather than a safe one. You might be surprised at one you find, and your reader will be delighted.
—Heffron
22. Objectivity
The perils of subjectivity arise largely from overidentifying with a subject, narrator or character in a narrative, and making it (or him or her) the vehicle for a thematic point in which the author himself is overly invested. The antidote is at least as old as the New Testament, specifically Matthew 5:43–48, where Christ instructs his followers to love their enemies. If what I have to say seems old hat, therefore, I’ll be neither disappointed nor surprised.
If you find yourself overidentifying with a topic or character, try to identify within the sympathetic subject, narrator or even oneself a trait or belief or habit that is repellent or inexcusable or just plain odd. In doing so, you’ll enhance the psychological or moral distance between yourself and the object of familiarity
or allegiance.
Another possible strategy is to rewrite the scene or section from the point of view of someone other than the object of sympathy. This forced disconnect can achieve a similar effect.
—Corbett
23. Revision
There are two good reasons for revising what you’ve written: Either you want to change something, or your editor, agent or client does. If the revision is your idea, that’s good. It means you know what you want, or what you suspect won’t fly. If the revision is by request, remember: The customer may not always be right, but she has the money and the medium—as well as the experience of buying for it. (You can fight for what you believe, of course, but choose your battles carefully. Races are won or lost in the final minutes.)
I knew a writer who would write a first draft and submit it without even reading it over. Others, myself included, substitute and trim and pinch and juggle until the work pours like melted butter.
With that in mind, here’s your 30-minute assignment:
Reduce by a third the word count of one of your recent efforts without losing its essence. (I did this myself, in fact, with my contributions to this article.) Note: Don’t constantly reread what you’ve written; if you memorize it, self-editing will be tougher. Put it away for a few days. Then read it fresh.
—Spikol
24. Language
Think of your writing as a windshield. Ill-suited words can streak and cloud your reader’s view, and just-right language can be as clarifying as a high-powered carwash. Once you have a solid draft, it’s time to consider:
·         Could a different word bring even more energy or resonance to a poignant moment through sound, subtleties of meaning, or syllabic rhythm?
·         Could the setting be conveyed more vividly? Is the natural world palpable?
·         Is the emotional tone consistently resonant? Are there neutral words or passages that could be more charged?
·         Does the language powerfully enact the action?
As you polish and prune, each piece of writing will teach you something new about what is possible. Let yourself be surprised.
—Cohen
25. Style
Writers sometimes speak of style as if it were an ingredient to be added to their story or poem or memoir. Instead, style is the thing itself. E.B. White said it best, writing, “Style takes its final shape more from attitudes of mind than from principles of composition, for, as an elderly practitioner once remarked, ‘Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.’” The key, then, to developing one’s style is to write, as White states, “in a way that comes naturally.”



Sound easy? It’s not. In fact, finding the “way that comes naturally” can take a lifetime, and the way can change with each piece you begin. One key to beginning that journey is to think about style not so much as a matter of addition, but subtraction—casting off feelings of awkwardness and self-consciousness, affectation and pretension. Focus on presenting your piece clearly, in a way that connects with readers. For practice, imagine a single reader sitting across a table from you. Spend a half-hour relating your piece to that reader, as clearly and honestly as possible. Spend another half-hour striving to make the piece more clear, more honest, more affecting. Then spend another half-hour making the piece more clear, more …
—Heffron 

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