READY TO PLAY? FOR THIS WEEK, as guest facilitator, I CREATED AN EDITING GAME I CALL “BAD WRITING BEGONE!”
Choose one to revise. Each paragraph begins with an inspirational quote from a writer who knows his or her stuff! Revise the paragraph to make it better, based on the quote and the instruction above. Be creative — play — do your thang!
MAKE IT SCARY: “Bad writing is more than a matter of shit syntax and faulty observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do― to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
She looked out the window again. There was her neighbor, being weird again. He left a trail of thick liquid as he dragged the garbage bag out to the bin by the road. He looked around before he made a phone call from his cell, and went back into the house.
MAKE IT FEEL REAL: “True mysticism should not be confused with incompetence in writing which seeks to mystify where there is no mystery but is really only the necessity to fake to cover lack of knowledge or the inability to state clearly. Mysticism implies a mystery and there are many mysteries; but incompetence is not one of them; nor is overwritten journalism made literature by the injection of a false epic quality. Remember this too: all bad writers are in love with the epic.”
― Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon
The afternoon expanded like a drumbeat with fever heat and the rising, rippling waves of mirage-quality distortion that filled the air a few feet above the simmering tarmac. The birds refused to sing; the dogs lay as if dead on porches that offered no shelter from summer. Neighbors peered from frosted windows into the knife-sharp brightness, their air conditioners shrieking with overwork. Indeed, global warming felt as close as an unwelcome lover today.
He looked at Dessie and sighed. She was crying and pleading for his love. He hoped she wouldn’t really go drown herself, but what could he do? Life was hard for him, too! He had other things he had to take care of. He had to save the company from his wicked uncle! Really, he was doing it to protect her, anyway! His uncle was so mean! He had to avenge his father’s death before he could get married! There was just too much pressure! She would have to understand!
©2017 Burbank Writing Coaching
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I found this on Writer UnBoxed, and thought it worth a share, but you need to plow through the intro to get to the ’10 things’ so I thought I’d summarize for you, and link you to the post for more of the gory details.
by Jennifer Cody Epstein, the author ofThe Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai
- History rides shotgun. Remember that what you’re writing is a novel—not a history book. This means history should be used only to heighten and deepen your narrative, and not the other way around.
- Write right away—or at least, feel like you could if you had to. Many historical novelists put off writing until they feel that they’ve “researched enough.” If your story is strong enough, though, you should be able to write it (or much of it) immediately—albeit with lots of blanks and “[TK]s”
- Research like hell. That said, you dohave to research—and the more you do the more authentic your book will feel. I probably read about twenty books for each novel, and countless online pages and papers.
- The 30 Percent Rule: It’s one of the depressing realities of researching: the vast majority of it probably won’t make your book. In my experience, between unused index cards and final-final edits I only use about 30% of what I’ve learned. Resign yourself to this likelihood.
- Talk to real people. For both of my books, I’ve found that some of my most vivid information comes from people, not pages—and that interviewing and observing subjects related to your story will add real-life nuance that text alone won’t.
- Watch out for big-shots. One of the coolest things about HF is the writer’s omnipotence: you can put anyone/thing anywhere you want them.Don’t abuse it. Just because the Fitzgeralds were in Paris during the period about which you are writing doesn’t mean you write about them, no matter how much you loved Gatsby. If their paths and your characters’ would naturally cross, go ahead (but don’t overdo it!). If not, leave them out.
- Vet vernacular. One of the hardest tasks a historical writer faces is finding language that fits his time, place and characters. On the other hand, one of the surest ways to lose a reader is to have your Plymouth-bound pilgrim say “gnarly.” Ok, so most of you probably wouldn’t do that. But I’ve been surprised by how even seasoned writers can slip up, even if just subtly.
- Make a timeline. It may be all those history tests I failed, but one of the hardest things for me is keeping historical dates straight. Consequently, I find making timelines essential.
- Check your facts. Sounds obvious, I know. But it’s incredibly important to get stuff right—with each mistake, you lose a little more of your reader’s faith. In the best cases, these readers will politely inform you of your screw-up (I recently got a helpful one-pager from a well-schooled smoker about 1940s cigarettes, and why Winston wasn’t one of them).
- Free your mind (and the rest will follow). It may seem strange, but another hard part of fictionalizing history is just allowing yourself to fictionalize. In fact, the most common question I get from students and readers is just that—essentially: when is it o.k. to make sh** up? The answer varies from writer to writer, of course. But in my case it’s pretty simple: if it can’t be easily proven that something didn’t happen, you can write as though it did.