Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sensory Exercises -- Week 6: Intuition

I bet you thought we were finished with these exercises, didn’t you? But we have one more sense with which to deal, a sense very important in your writing. And that’s the Sixth Sense – intuition.

You can make fun of intuition all you wish in real life; however, it’s an important tool in fiction. It doesn’t have to turn the piece into a paranormal one – intuition is partially the ability to comprehend and process information from all the other sense rapidly in addition to being that nebulous, inexplicable “feeling”.

So, this week, you are going to create Story G, which focuses on the intuitive. And you are going to do yet another rewrite of Story A, adding in that sixth sense.

I’m not going to tell you how to craft the intuitive aspect of the story – use your own intuition!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sensory Exercises -- Week 5: Sight

How often do you really look at something? Or do you pull down your cap, turn your music up and isolate yourself from the world around you? You’re a writer: everything is stimulus for your work.

For the next few days, truly take a look at what’s around you. Notice the size, shape, texture, color, dimensionality.

This week, write Story F, focusing solely on the way objects in the story look. And work the sense of sight into Story A.

This week’s image:

The sight of falling leaves.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Quills

Earlier today, I learned The Quills are determined by popular vote. The awards celebrates the best books of the year in nineteen categories. Want to vote? Do it before September 30th!

Sara Gruen, who appeared in the May issue of The Scruffy Dog Review, has a book on the list. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is listed under General Fiction.

Good Luck to all the nominees!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sensory Exercises -- Week 4: Touch

Touch. When you pick up an object, how does it feel? Rough? Smooth? Heavy? Slimy?

The sense of touch affects more than your hands. What does it do to the rest of the body? To your senses? To your mind? To your emotions?

As you move through the day, do you actually experience the sensations around you or do you close yourself off? As a writer, you have to remember to remain open to the senses as much as you safely can, and learn how to communicate them.

Overuse your adjectives this week, in your first draft. Then cut back so that you say what you wish to communicate as precisely as you can with the fewest possible words.

You will build touch into Story A, revising it yet again to add in tangible sensations. And you will write Story E, which focuses primarily on that one sense.

What is the touch?

The sensation of warm sand.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Poetry Bus Tour

Stopping at 50 cities in 50 days the 2006 Poetry Bus Tour, sponsored by Seattle-based independent press Wave Books, is the biggest literary event of 2006 and the most ambitious poetry tour ever attempted.

Beginning September 4 and ending October 27, the bus tour will visit a variety of venues.

To find out if the bus is coming your way or to listen to the readings available online, click here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

And Now, For a Break in Our Exercises . . .

. . .to talk about craft.

Recently, I was asked on a forum to explain what I meant when I said that, on days when the Muse fled and I’m on deadline, I relied on craft. I maintain that, if you want a career as a writer, you cannot attain that without writing only “when you feel like it”, nor can you get away without a basic knowledge of spelling, grammar, and structure.

If you miss a deadline and behave unprofessionally, there are several thousand writers just as good as you are who are more professional and will elbow you out of the limited amount of slots available.

The only time in your career you will have the luxury of “writing when you feel like it” is when you’re unpublished.

I define "craft" as having solid skills in sentence structure, grammar, spelling, etc. It's knowing how to line up words on the page coherently. It's understanding how to compose a paragraph, a scene, a piece of dialogue. It's having the motivation to search for the information you need to back up your story rather than expecting other people to hand it to you or do your research for you.

With a basis in craft, you can make informed choices in the style of a particular piece. There are authors who break the rules all the time – but they know the rules, and breaking them is out of choice, not ignorance.

In the heat of a good flow, all those things can get in your way -- especially in a first draft, where I believe one needs to get it out as quickly as possible in order to have something from which to work.

But on tough days, if you have working knowledge of your basic craft, you can literally build word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence, dealing with the resistance, the exhaustion, or the Muse's absence. Will it have to be revised to make it sparkle? Probably.

For instance, I recently had a slew of deadlines for articles. I'd done the research. I had the material. I didn't feel any "spark" -- in fact, I felt resistance. There were other things I'd rather write, there were other things I'd rather do -- even as desperate as cleaning the bathroom.

However, this is a contracted, paid gig. If I want to maintain my hire-ability, I can't miss a deadline, and I have to turn in something good. So, I sat my butt in the chair, and built the articles, word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence. It was tough. It was unpleasant. It was frustrating. But I did it.

My reward was, once I'd hit my quota, I could work on whatever I wanted.

The next day, I went to revise and -- boom! Idea! Inspiration! I could add in the tweaks to make it sparkle, make it unique, make it worth what they're paying me.

Usually it's the inspiration first, the craft in the rewrite. But, when you're feeling resistance, the craft will give you words on the page and you can go from there.

If I hadn't met the deadline, I wouldn't be hired again.

I don't think art and craft are mutually exclusive, which is what too many unpublished writers believe. You need a balance of both. Without the craft as a foundation, the art can't fly.