Love Your Words (but not too much)

Ziegler has a lot of great quotes in his book, The Writing Workshop Notebook, but this one made me laugh and at the same time it rings very true. I spend a lot of time on picking the right words. I spend even more time picking out names of characters and places.
 
Words have power. They set tone and image and put the reader into the world you are creating. My wife thinks I spend too much time worrying about such things, but the wrong word can be jarring or confusing to the reader, and may draw them out of the story, maybe for only a moment, but great writing is experienced, not just read. When done extraordinarily well, the author becomes invisible and the reader simply goes along for the ride.
 
Contrary-wise, when the wrong words are chosen, or when there are too many, the reader gets bogged down and can certainly tell there is a conductor at the front of the locomotive who is determined to drive the train off the tracks.
 
Writers can fall in love with certain passages, and sometimes it can be to the detriment of the story. Less is more may be a cliché, but it’s usually true. We’ve all read stories that were clunky or overly wordy. It’s actually one of my pet peeves. I get irritated when the author goes on and on about a particular subject or describes everything in sight in excruciating detail. The consequence is that I skip the passage. If the writer stubbornly continues I may put the book down altogether.
 
Sometimes even when you love them you need to set them free!

Review – On Writing by Stephen King

This is from a paper I did for my MFA program.
Stephen King’s On Writing is more than just a book on how to write. It is a memoir and a journal about how he wrote several of his best sellers. It also showcases his keen eye for what makes a good story.
 
King is in the camp that believes writers are born, at various skill levels. A writer cannot be made of someone who is not born a “writer”. Mr. King does believe that the skill can be sharpened, thank goodness.
 
I found the memoir section engaging. I’m not sure why this surprised me. Each of these little vignettes was a little story of its own. Even though they were non-fiction, they were quite entertaining. He remembered things that had some aspect that was either jarring or gross. Elements that, no doubt, helped shape the direction his writing life would take. I definitely empathize with getting poison ivy in all the wrong places as a kid. I did notice, however, that even Stephen King uses passive voice when describing something, colorful and evocative though it may have been.

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Pathetic Fallacy

Leighna Raluca
Pathetic Fallacy
Leighna Raluca Pathetic Fallacy

I learned a new literary term this week. At first, I thought my mentor was snarking at my poor use of description, but I looked it up and it’s actually a real thing. I’ve seen it hundreds of times, but like so many other things I had no idea there was an actual title for it.

 Pathetic Fallacy – A literary term for the attributing of human emotion and conduct to all aspects within nature. It is a kind of personification that is found in poetic writing when, for example, clouds seem sullen, when leaves dance, when dogs laugh, or when rocks seem indifferent. Continue reading “Pathetic Fallacy”

How I’m Progressing as a Writer

Timons Teaching
Timons Esaias in his element

I recently finished my 4th residency for my master’s program and I’ve had some time to reflect on my progress as a writer. I’ve enjoyed every residency but each has its own flavor. After the first one, I wasn’t really sure that the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction program was going to work out. I’d spent several years prior to starting the program trying to improve my skill and my knowledge-base about writing as a profession and I felt like I wasn’t learning anything new. My opinion on that changed after the second residency, but looking back now, I can see the cumulative effects of the program.

After each semester I’d taken stock of how much my writing skill had increased, if at all. After the semester that ended last winter, I felt I’d reached a new plateau, but after spending a full semester with Timons Esaias as my mentor, my skill seems to have gone up an order of magnitude, instead of incrementally. I more easily recognize patterns in writing that I couldn’t see before. Common mistakes that a lot of writers make, especially on the first draft, stand out like a strobing beacon. Continue reading “How I’m Progressing as a Writer”

I Will Not Be Boycotting the Olympics

There has been a lot of grousing on the interwebs about the Sochi Olympics and how homophobic the Russians are; the fact that the village isn’t completed, or there may be tens of billions of dollars in graft and corruption. Several of my friends and people whose blogs I read are talking about boycotting Sochi.
I don’t get this.
How is any of that relevant to how hard the athletes have trained? They have devoted their lives to getting ready for the next Olympics. We can debate how important sports are. Or if there is any value in watching sports, but how does boycotting Sochi have anything to do with the events that are televised? The TV rights are bought and paid for. The tickets are already sold for the events. I have never spent a dime on anything related to the Olympics, and I don’t plan to now. About the only thing I can think of is that some Neilson rating number will get an infinitesimally small blip from me watching a televised event.

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