Hello! If you're here for the first time via Write On Con, welcome! (And if you're a faithful reader, I like you a lot, too. Thanks for being here.)
Over at Write On Con HQ today, I waxed lengthy and opinionated about the importance of craft in a writer's life. (It read something along the lines of the below, but with more words, and a particular focus on craft).
1. Pick an ordinary object, or an ordinary view, or an everyday experience. Now describe it using five analogies or phrases that are entirely fresh, not clichés or familiar ideas. In other words, create an image that's entirely new, out of your words and perspective, and give it to one of your characters to speak.
2. Read a book that you admire aloud. Pay special attention to what’s NOT in the text as well as what is. Return to your own writing and see, as a result of your study, what you can remove and how the reader might actually benefit as a result—from a more compelling pace, from a more streamlined plot, from tighter writing, from more suspense.
3. Find a book that achieves some of the same things you’re trying to achieve in your own work. Take it apart. Dissect it. Turn it into a chapter-by-chapter outline, or even a scene-by-scene outline. Then study that outline to pieces, noting things like when subplots are introduced and woven in and resolved, and where the action rises and falls (and how often it does each), and the balance of dialogue and prose, and the sort of emotion each chapter opens and closes with, and where in the story's telling unexpected things happen and how that affects the overall pace, and the arc of each key character’s growth across the book.
Don’t try to do all this in a day. Spend days on it, even weeks. Use it as a warm-up exercise before your day’s writing. Or stop writing for a little while, and devote yourself to this study intensely: whatever works for you. But eventually, go back to your own book, armed with new knowledge, with the ability to better master your own craft having studied another’s mastery.
4. Try writing from a different point of view than you’ve ever tried before; a different voice than ever before; a character who on the surface shares nothing in common with you. What might that previously untried-voice or perspective make fresh in your writing, set free in your writing? What will you learn from your foreign-seeming character, as a writer, and as a person?
5. Share what you know: leave some of your own favorite craft-developing practices in the comments below so that others can try them, too!