Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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Do You Write With Verve?

August 13, 2015

Verve

Do you write with ‘verve’? Do your readers devour your books with verve?  Do you even know what the heck is verve? Webster defines verve as:

the spirit and enthusiasm animating artistic composition or performance: VIVACITY

Other definitions include “with vigor and spirit or enthusiasm”. Synonyms include ‘zest’, ‘sparkle’, ‘charisma’, ‘brio’, ‘gusto’…and there’s a lot more but I’m running out of room for my point.

Verve is not just a descriptor of performance, but also for the expression of ideas. When you write, you are writing action, thoughts, dialogue, description, all which have to be interpreted by your reader. A reader should be swept away and immersed in the words he or she reads, as if the story is actually happening right now in their imagination.

Using verve in your writing gives the words on your page/screen more life, more animation, more oomph. Take, for instance, the following short but familiar narrative:

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone;
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none

Compare to:

The crusty, wiry-haired old dog whined under the rotting wooden table almost sounding like a whimper. Emma, the last of her nine siblings to survive past the age of 90, patted her old friend on the head, pushed herself upright from her chair, wincing with the painful effects of arthritis, and teetered to the lone cupboard in the corner. If there was any food in the modest but dusty little three-room cottage it may be found there. Emma reached up her gnarled hand, pulled the small handle, and creaked open the cupboard door. She raised herself on her tiptoes to see better, but it was no use. Not a scrap of food was left. She nodded in resigned confirmation, walked back to her chair and patted her old friend on the head again.

Does one or the other have more ‘verve’? Do you notice more animation, brio, or gusto with one narrative over the other? With all due respect to our famous nursery rhymes, the first stanza of Old Mother Hubbard tells a succinct and direct story, but it lacks verve.

The animation and life you put into your writing is what keeps a book in a readers’ hands. Don’t fall into the trap of “then this happened, and then that happened”. I found myself getting sucked into that pitfall when trying to steam ahead and write my story as quickly as possible. But in doing so I found my verve lacking considerably. I have once again found my verve and I hope you do too.

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A Bookcase Full of Writing Reference Books

March 18, 2015

BookcaseI have a bookcase. A tall one. I live in the city of the world famous Powell’s Books. So yeah, my shelves are stacked and overflowing with books. One particular genre of books taking up precious space on my bookcase are those from the writing reference section. Dozens upon dozens of books face me each day as I pass by begging me to “Write That Novel”, and exclaiming, “You Can Write Romance!”. I have encouragement from Julia Cameron and her Artist’s Way (and btw, I’m counting today’s blog as part of my morning pages.) And I have all the forensic procedures and poisons I can swallow (sorry, that pun just had to happen.)

Now the big question I’m sure you are begging to ask is, “so have you read all those books?” Of course not! They’re for reference! When I need to know how to pick a poison I have just the guide. If I need a plot structure helper I know where to go. I would say I’ve read close to one-third of them. And many of them I have not even cracked open. So the point is why own so many how-to books if I don’t read them, or even open for a quick reference.

To me it is encouragement. I have succeeded in writing online articles and content, but I am committed to writing a novel. Each time I stop by Powell’s Books I browse the writing reference section to check for another used copy of a handy and helpful writing guide. A novel full of 70,000 – 100,000 words requires a bit more creative thought, planning, outlining and plotting than a simple 300-700 word article. And by a ‘bit’ I mean exponentially harder. My books are my mentor. Stephen King encourages me in his On Writing memoir. Janet Evanovich tells me How I Write and I can model her example.

Could I write without all these books? Sure I could. And so could you. But if writers didn’t need encouragement and support there would be no MFA programs in creative writing. And the Artist’s Way would never have been published. And the Writing Reference section at Powell’s would be boarded over and in its place would probably display blank journals. So I cherish my books, unopened as some of the may be. But I’m confident that when I finish my first novel the investment in my writing reference shelves will have paid off.