By in Writing

Musings for Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Today has been relatively quiet but somewhat productive. I studied for about an hour from Stephen King’s On Writing, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite books about writing. It’s not only a well-written and often humorous “how to” for writers, but it is also a moving and powerful memoir in which King describes his triumphs as a best-selling author, as well as his struggles with alcoholism and drug abuse. If you ask me what books to read to understand the craft and what goes into good writing, I’d tell you to run, not walk, to your nearest bookseller (or e-shop at Amazon) and get a copy of On Writing.

As I mentioned earlier. I also did two writing exercises in “character expression.” In them I used characters’ body language, verbal and internal dialogue, and other cues to show that they felt either sadness or desire. This is one of the trickier techniques that writers have to learn and use. We can’t simply say “The woman was sad.” Yes, the woman may indeed be sad, but good writing, especially in fiction, is not made up of simple declarative sentences a la Dick and Jane primers. We writers have to paint a word picture for the reader by adding vivid supporting details and make the characters come to life through description. As my journalism professor used to tell us when I was in college, “Show. Don’t tell.”

On the whole, I like the “Sadness” exercise better than the “Desire” one, partly because AliCanary looked it over and made a few edits when I posted it on Facebook, but also because it seems more real to me. Of course, I’m my own harshest critic, so Writing Exercise # 2 may actually be better than I think it is. I will let it be for now; if I read it with fresh eyes in the morning and still dislike it, I’ll make the necessary edits.

Image Credit » by StartupStockPhotos

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msiduri wrote on December 16, 2015, 8:42 AM

For a long time, I thought I was the only one who went through "This isn't so bad—this sucks—this really isn't so bad—oh, wait, who wrote this shi!t" cycles. From what I understand, it's really quite common. Now if I could just could get off that crazy train...

AliCanary wrote on December 17, 2015, 6:04 AM

I do that with my artwork, as well! I think it's good and bad--we should appreciate what we can do, but also strive to do better.

msiduri wrote on December 17, 2015, 7:19 AM

There is that. But it's an emotional rollercoaster. I'm going to print out some pages for a critique group tonight. Though I know they won't tear it apart, I wish it were better. I've been working on it for a year, maybe more.

alexdg1 wrote on December 17, 2015, 8:10 AM

Is this the "Siegfried" manuscript you used to mention on The Site that Slunk Off in the Middle of the Night?

msiduri wrote on December 17, 2015, 8:15 AM

Yes. Siegfried is still a munchkin. In this installment, Siegfried's older sisters get engaged.

alexdg1 wrote on December 17, 2015, 8:46 AM

I always go through those "This isn't too awful - this is unreadable twaddle - this isn't too awful - What the hell was I THINKING???!!" cycles when I attempt to write fiction. I need to jump off that "crazy train," too.