A Different Way
From “The Gospel of Luke” in the book God Is Disappointed in You, by Mark Russell (writer) and Shannon Wheeler (cartoonist):
As he slowly bled to death, it seemed like the whole world had gathered to ridicule Jesus. As he hung there dying, they beat and mocked Jesus for being so naive as to waste his time on pathetic and misguided ideas like forgiveness. For which he forgave them.
A Poetic Storyteller
Just finished reading the hefty autobiography of Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run. As long as it is, I wonder how much got trimmed along the way by the author himself, as Springsteen the songwriter is an incredible poetic storyteller and knows the value and power of words (and music as well) … and it’s not like he could ever include everything anyway (was still sad that the book didn’t talk about his participation in the making of “We Are the World”).
Appreciated that he didn’t hide himself (completely, at least) in telling his story, and offered his usual raw look at life, including his own struggles:
Otherwise, if you’d like to hear/see some of Springsteen in action not only as a performer but most of all as a wordsmith, check out some these favorites of mine, which would be material enough for a writing course on their own:
“Thunder Road” [listen for “There were ghosts in the eyes…” and the next line about Chevrolets — such stark visual word-painting]
“Jungleland” [listen for the line about the barefoot girl — more great imagery thanks to little details]
“Streets of Philadelphia” [opening lines so brutally personal, from the point of view of the narrator: mainly Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Philadelphia, and yet such common emotions for all of us at one time or another in life]
“American Skin (41 Shots)” [tackling a lightning-rod issue with this one … studio version with lyrics here]
“The Ghost of Tom Joad” [kind of a culmination of how he taps into creating music that isn’t afraid to speak to modern culture … studio version with lyrics here]
PS: Found an Apple interview with Springsteen and really liked this line from him when asked about writing a book rather than song lyrics:
“You gotta find the music that’s in the words themselves.”
Sage wisdom for writers of any kind …
Avoid Long Phrases Separating Subject from Predicate
Subject … Predicate … Appositive …
For those of you who are already cringing at the thought of an entire article focused on Grammar 101, take a deep breath and relax. This isn’t about grammar so much as good writing that allows readers to more easily engage, and thus enjoy, what you’ve crafted as an author of fiction or nonfiction.
With that out of the way, let’s glance at the basics we need to keep in mind. The subject of a sentence tells us who or what the sentence is about. The predicate tells us something about the subject—what the subject is or does.
Easy enough so far, right? You put a subject (noun) and predicate (verb) together, and you have yourself a sentence.
Learn the Land of Fiction by Reading Every Day
I’ll start this post with one of my favorite quotes on the craft of fiction:
“If you don’t have the time to read,
you don’t have the time (or tools) to write.”
–Stephen King, On Writing
This quote came in King’s section on his two great commandments for every writer: read a lot and write a lot. The writing part makes sense, of course: regular writing will improve your skills as a storyteller. However, too many novelists seem to think that the second of King’s commandments is more of a suggestion, and they rarely spend any serious amount of time reading novel-length fiction.
The big problem with this? These novelists’ stories usually fall prey to some of the most common issues we editors find in manuscripts. For example: Continue reading
A Brief List of My Personal Favorites
If you’re a novelist and looking for a good book on the craft of writing, you likely have realized after perusing the Internet that you have about a bazillion choices. So, where do you start?
Well, it may grate on some people’s beliefs, but technically, you don’t need any books on writing to be an author. If you have a good grasp of the English language and you read a lot of fiction and write fiction regularly, then you’re already pretty well set to get started. You’ll have room to grow and mature as a writer, certainly, but the more you read and write, the better you’ll be. Further, if you’re spending more time reading about how to write fiction than actually writing it or reading it, then you’re hurting your own potential as an author.