Sunday, February 26, 2017

Writers $ense - Shop the Competition, Read

"Shop the Competition," is a business term used to describe a method of learning what your rival does better. Reading enables a writer to recognize good and bad writing regardless of the genre he or she chooses to write. 

Good writers broaden their horizons reading. They read everyday and anything they can get their hands on, newspapers, magazines, comic books, classic novels, anything in print or online. Writers plunge themselves in words.

Submerse yourself in Pulitzer Prize, New York Times, National Book Award books. Be bold, if a Nobel Peace Prize Winner for Literature appears in an English translation, read it. Follow the authors your audience reads. Expand your reading genres to spark your creativity and enhance your writing ability.

Reading what you write helps you learn more about your audience. It builds an inventory of good and bad writing. Exploring other writers in your writing genre sometimes reveals concepts and ideas you thought unique.  

Choose books from the New York Times bestsellers (100,000+ copies sold). Extract what the public perceives as a good book. Wander through every book like an editor and a consumer. Discover how the author triggered your emotions and maintained your attention. Make note of the writing’s quality. 

Writing is a skill, but a writer's output is artistic. Every piece of art compares itself with previous masterpieces. Writers need to shop the competition and read.

 “If you don’t have time to read, 
you don’t have the time (or the tools) 
to write. Simple as that.” -Stephen King


Friday, February 3, 2017

Writer's $ense: Breaking the Rules

Cover ImageBill Mesce, Jr's article* "What Do You Mean You Can't Do It?" brought me to this blank page to write this blog.  Mesce's writing career spans more than twenty some years. His article addresses the use of "show, don't tell." His premise speaks to the need to "tell."

Mr. Mesce defends an author's right to choose his words, phrases, punctuation, and sometimes sentence structure to move the plot. A storyteller reveals characters, settings, and emotions with words to  take the reader deeper into a story. Examples from classic and current literature and movies explain how "telling" enhances the reader's or viewer's experience.

Rules guide a writer through the writing process. Style guides metaphorically act as a manual for new scribes. Grammar rules, punctuation, stylistic preferences of publishers are like the rules of the road. Following the rules keeps the driver safe. Writing rules present the author with a platform to begin a creative process.

Just like a good driver knows when to change lanes when anticipating trouble on the road. A creative writer adjusts his or her writing to hook the reader, to maintain emotional connections, and conclude with certainty. A driver makes a quick decision to safety. A writer breaks a rule for effect.

Now, (this is for my Critique Group) I'm not throwing out all the rules. I concede "breaking a writing rule" works only if it enhances the story. As my editor told me, "It's your story."

*Mesce, Jr., Bill, "What Do You Mean You Can't Do It?", The Writer's Chronicle. December, 2016