Follow-up on Flow

Loquats and Mountain Bird, Chinese painting, a...
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Careful what ya ask, eh?

This past weekend, I tried out the first point of writing advice in the 25 Ways to Improve Your Writing in 30 Minutes a Day.  (Why on earth did they not shorten that title?)

Author David Morrell posited that honest writing starts by asking yourself and your WiP (work in progress) some rather open-ended questions as a way to elicit flow – a natural rhythm to your work.

So, good student that I am, I opened my journal this weekend, passed my hand over a fresh page and asked: Where to?

Holy Moly, watch what you ask for.  And, for my dog’s sake, be more specific.  I ended up writing for three hours on the first few scenes of a servant turned assassin tale that came out of nowhere.

Assassins?  What does this nameless character with a newly found mentor named Jarrod have anything to do with my WiP?

Absolutely nothing.

Note, Mr. Morrell mentioned you should ask your WiP or whatever you are working on those questions, not a blank page.  Ah, grasshopper, it’s all about the specifics, isn’t it?

Which, brings me to the next piece of writing advice in that article: Precision.  In the my next post, once I’ve recovered from the last, I’ll try author Jack Heffron’s advice to be precise.

2. Precision
In the study of traditional Chinese painting, the term hua long dian jing speaks to the need for precision. It translates roughly to mean, “Dot the dragon’s eye, and it comes to life.” In other words, your subject remains inert until you add the precise detail that brings it, in the reader’s mind, to life.  Often when we finish a draft, we feel the piece somehow isn’t working.  Our writing group says they found it dull in places, or just “didn’t get it.”  The culprit is often a lack of precision – the key, specific details that bring the world of the piece alive.

Develop the habit of dedicating time to reviewing your work with precision in mind. How would that scene change if you add a sweet tang of honeysuckle to the breeze? How might this character change if you fasten the top button of his shirt? Henry James told us that writers are people “on whom nothing is lost.” The key to successfully creating or conveying worlds for our readers is painstakingly observing those worlds, and then scribbling down the precise details that tell the story.
—Jack Heffron

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