Sunday, June 13, 2010

Not a Moment to Spare

'If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.'

~Isaac Asimov

The world is speeding up. This much I know.

Remember when you could read a book and muddy your way through a third of it without much of a hook? We trusted the author and we read on, knowing we would finally get to the meat of things.

When I first started writing professionally the name of the game was the first five pages. Nab the guts of your reader in your opening pages or you’re doomed. [The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman, is still a must read for any writer.]

The game changed again. Soon it became clear that you had only the first page. Then the first few paragraphs. Dare I say the challenge has become hooking your reader in the first couple of sentences? I think it’s a safe observation.

I’m guilty of purple prose. It’s impossible for me to forego all of my adjectives and I blame it on my interior design background. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. But I’m careful. Really, I am. I try to let my readers use their imaginations to fill in the details. Show. Don’t tell.

Examine the example the world is showing us. Listen to the pattern of speech. It’s fast. It’s clipped. It’s verbal shorthand. LOL.

Is your writing of dialogue current? Ranting and woes and old ladies with knitting needles may tend to rattle on, but many conversations of today are brief, abrupt, and interrupted.

The introduction of the Vook is yet another example of a speeded-up delivery system.

I don’t wake up each day and follow Isaac Asimov’s mantra of writing faster. Quite the opposite. I get it down on paper. That’s a good start. But a reread usually shows me my masterpiece is nothing but silly dough and finger paint. Dissection begins. Does each scene carry my story forward? Is the paragraph necessary? Is the sentence integral? The very word?

Today I wish you the right write words.

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