|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
WHICH CAME FIRST? THE SENTENCE OR THE STORY?
WHEN DO YOU FINALLY BEGIN TO WRITE?
Being an anomaly in Southern California, a non-ocean type, I do the vast majority of my surfing on the web. Some of it is in search of inspiration, and some of it is for helpful articles produced by other writers. I was fishing around for something pertinent to my own process when I came across an article by Janet Fitch. Janet is a published novelist and teaches at the University of Southern California. As an aid to aspiring writers, she posted on her blog, "10 writing tips that can help almost anyone." There was so much great advice in it that it was reprinted, in its entirety, by the Los Angeles Times.
I didn't even make it past the first tip, "Write the sentence, not just the story." What great advice! How many times do we find ourselves so wrapped up in the story we are trying to convey that we stop paying attention to how we're conveying it? The rhythms? The similes and metaphors? The way the sentence actually sounds when read aloud?
Her suggestion to read and analyze good poetry as a help for the fiction writer is priceless. As a poet first and a fiction writer second, it has been my habit to try to find the music in the words. I use short sentences to break up paragraphs. Longer sentences are employed to examine and explore moment and motivation, or to set theme and mood.
Let your characters talk. Let them describe the setting. Let them interact with each other and bring their own and other's personalities into focus. Don't tell me about their nature, let their actions show it to me.
The question that was asked of Ms. Fitch in a rejection written by Jim Krusoe, editor of The Santa Monica Review, is one we should all ask of ourselves. What makes my sentences unique? What makes them, not just readable, but lyrical and compelling? What is it in my writing that makes me stand out from everyone writing in that subject or genre?
When you begin to answer that question, you stop being another member of the flock. Your words become a journey and adventure. Instead of a reader saying, "Oh, another one of those", they turn to someone at a party and say, "Have you read that great story by, (your name here), I couldn't put it down!" So, why not slow down a bit and listen to the sound of your words. Are they singing or just talking?
In the meantime...live, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis