W3 Wise Words on Writing

W3 is a monthly newsletter for writers on a variety of topics from technique to the psychology of writing. It appears by the 15th of each month. More information is available from www.wisewordsonwriting.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

No 31.Playing with Words

New writers often think they can write something once. Experienced writers know that our work needs to be cut, added to, polished, reworked. Even the slightest change can add depth or give your readers more information. In the same way stretching warms us up before exercising, reworking the same sentence or two can increase our craftsmanship. Supposing you want to get your character, John, up a hill fast - there are many ways to do it.

Version 1: John was running up the hill. (Okay, John is getting to the top of the hill fast where we want him. But is the writing as strong as we want it? It depends on the image we are trying to create in the reader's mind. )

Version 2: John ran up the hill. (Was +verb+ing is weak. Ran without the was and the ing is better.)

Version 3: John catapulted himself up the hill. (It implies John put himself into a machine and somehow launched himself up the hill, however, the force with which he got up the hill is stronger.)

Version 4: John bounded up the hill. (We see John as athletic taking the hill like Superman.)

Version 5: John sprinted up the hill. (Makes the hill seem smaller if he can reach the top with a

Version 6: Breathing heavily John struggled up the hill. (Instead of John being seen as an athlete easily running up a hill now he is struggling. We don't know if he is running or walking, but we do know that he is having problems.)

Version 7: John's feet pounded against the dirt path as he raced up the hill. (John is racing again, and now we know there is an unpaved path. Also we have some sound, pounding, adding another sense.)

Version 8: Breathing heavily, John ran up the dirt path until he reached the summit of Grey's Hill. (Now we have given the hill an identity. We have the sound of his breathing, but we eliminated the pounding.)

Version 9: Breathing heavily and with his backpack slowing him down, John ran up Grey's Hill. (Now we can see that John is being handicapped as he goes up Grey's Hill. We have increased the visual image with the backpack.)

Version 10: Breathing heavily and with his backpack slowing him John pounded up the dirt path of Grey's Hill. Trees hung low scratching his bare arms. (A new fact and we are back to pounding feet adding sound to the scene.)

We could go on indefinitely until John totally collapses from all those trips up the hill.
What does this prove? The more we manipulate words, the more of an image we can create. Playing and rearranging, adding and subtracting can increase the strength of our writing.

"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."Gene Fowler

"The tendon part of the mind, so to speak is more developed in winter: the fleshy in summer. I should say winter has given the bone and sinew to literature, summer the tissues and blood."John Burroughs

"This is the challenge of writing. You have to be very emotionally engaged in what you're doing, or it comes out flat. You can't fake your way through it."RealLivePreacher.com

"The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense."Tom Clancy

"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."Mark Twain

1. Find a paragraph in a book. Now rewrite it by changing the words, sentence order, etc. Rewrite it again. Rewrite it a third time.

2. Take a paragraph from your own writing and start polishing it. First change the verbs. Change the sentence order. Add another sense (smell, sound, etc) to the paragraph.

The Writer's Guide to Places by Don Prues & Jack Heffron (2003) will help you write about 51 cities in the US and Canada. .

Good website: www.FabulistFlash.com.

If you are approached by Nobel House to publish your poetry, there have been some complaints that they do not send the books that you will buy.

As a fascinated reader or blogs, I finally started my own - theexpatwriter.blogspot.com. It's great therapy, much cheaper than a shrink.

A Russian friend who borrowed the Russian edition of my novel Chickpea told me there was a quote from the Russian edition of Cosmopolitan on the back cover. Not being able to read anything at all including my name and the title, I was pleased.

After two months of waiting I received the contract for the publication of my second novel, THE CARD. As always the novel had gone through many rounds of rejections, so to those writers who get discouraged and who doesn't, keep trying. This was the novel I wrote for my M.A. in creative writing at Glamorgan University in Wales, and I feel part of the credit goes of my mentor, Siân James, who patiently chanted "less is more" until it became my mantra. Siân also kept my characters in line, my descriptions believable and a thousand other nags that eight years later still are there. Thank you, Siân.


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