Work It #12 from A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld
Chapter 12: Increase Your Craft
- Identify an area of writing craft for which you know, or have been told, you could use some improvement. Choose from one of the suggestions in this chapter: Joina critique group–more on that in chapter sixteen, “Combat Criticism, Seek Critique”–or find a free online course, webinar, or writing group to participate in. Participate with the intention of improving only one area of your craft. When you begin to notice improvement, pick a new area to get support for.
- Here’s a fun exercise: Take a book you’ve loved that has a strong voice or style different from your own. Now write a paragraph of your own story in that same voice or style. If I were to do this, I’d use Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, since I tend to write long, flowing sentences, heavy on the imagery, whereas he is terse, spare, and succinct. Yet his books are evocative and dramatic in a way I would love my own to be. Try to identify what it is about the author that is so unique. Does he write in short staccato sentences? Is the character a smack-talking bad boy? Does the writer use lots of metaphor and imagery? When you play with the style of another writer and adapt your own work to it (just as an exercise), you teach yourself a new skill in a subconscious way, without the rational mind telling you you’re doing it wrong.
- Right now, I’m working on improving my consistency, trying for more steady output, and I’m attempting to get out of my perfectionist habits and actually finish cranking out an entire work before I go back and revise it. So, the plan is to stop caving to my perfectionist, over-revisionist tendencies as I finish writing the rest of the scenes I have planned for my serial-turned-novel Frost: An Otherworld Tale. I’ve been stuck on this one work for TEN YEARS. I think it’s time I finally finish cranking out the rest of the scenes before I do more subsequent draft revisions. I am determined to finally FINISH this project, and THEN revise/improve it!
- My favorite book I’ve loved that has a strong voice/style different from my own is–hands down–One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. I love the way that reading One for the Money feels like you’re having a conversation with your best friend, who just so happens to be from Trenton, New Jersey. It’s down-to-earth, contemporary, and funny as hell. If I were going to apply Evanovich’s style in One for the Money to Frost, my opening paragraph would probably read something like this:
I’m pretty sure my Dad is trying to ruin my life. That’s why I’m shivering in the back of a cab in the wee hours of the morning, a whole ocean away from the jerk. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t technically run away from home. I’ve got two homes, one in Bay Minette, Alabama, and one in Ashby, Leicestershire, England. My parents have been divorced since I was seven years old, and my Mom is British. So, this is more of a running from one parent to another type situation, rather than a childish sort of mutiny, which I’m sure is what it seems like on the surface. Just hear me out, okay?