When I first started in this writing business (for real), I was in a critique group with a wonderful well-published author who wrote in a completely different genre than I. When she’d come across some of my phrases, like “Her eyes dropped to the floor,” Barb would waggle her finger at me and say, “No moving body parts!” I guess I did it often enough for the phrase to stick in my head.
Today I came across a critique from someone in my critique group, of someone else’s writing. The critiquer had highlighted that the submitter used the phrase “her eyes darted around the room” twice in as many paragraphs. It was the repetition which she’d pointed out. But for a flash, I remembered Barb’s words and imagined the heroine eyes floating from the body and moving quickly around.
So, here is my question concerning this phrase: Can eyes dart (they do within sockets), or should they not dart (detached from the body)?
My on-line critique group has taken a break from our weekly critiquing now and then to do workshops. Since “voice” is big with agents and editors now, and we have been talking about it for the past year or more, this week our critique group is doing a Voice Workshop together, led by our own, Rose Green. Then here, smack-dab in the middle of the week, I got this brilliant idea that next week we each write a post on our blogs on Voice, as sort of a term paper summary from this week.
It will take a while to soak in all the things we’ve been learning, so I may be compartmentalizing into more than one post next week. I always tended to be a rule breaker, even when I was the one making up the rules.
What we hope to discover in our Voice Workshop is:
1) What is Voice?
2) How do you create Voice?
3) What kinds of Voice appeal to you?
See you next week.
We’re in part of the “monster storm” area. Eighteen inches of snow is predicted to fall tonight, over top the six or so we’re to get during the day. Power will be iffy. We are also on a well-system, which means if the power goes out, so does our water pump (i.e., no flushing toilets, no showers, no leaving water dripping through the pipes with single digit tempts outside to keep the pipes from freezing). If we use our fireplace, we must keep the flu open or smoke will fill our house. But if we do use the fireplace, that means more warm house air will escape up our chimney than stays inside, because we don’t have a blower. With single digits in the forecast the day after tomorrow, someone would have to be up all night feeding the fire. We simply don’t have the wood supply for that.
This is exciting.
I am a writer.
Yes, I know there is real-life danger issues with this storm. But as a writer… I’m taking notes, and suggest you do, too. What are my emotions ahead of the storm? During? After? How can I describe the various stages of the storm? What can happen with candles? Then there are always the “what-ifs.” What if this were 1800? (– for those writing historical novels.) What if someone was pregnant and went into labor, but the roads were impassable? What if a child wanted to play outside, alone? What if a tunnel had to be shoveled to the barn to take care of the animals? What if that heavy snow and resulting power outage and … brought people together? How? What? Where? Who?
I’m grabbing my journal and pens and pencils (pencils in case the ink in the pens freeze). Bring it on.
If you read and write in only one gender, one piece of advice given by many writing conference speakers is to go listen to someone outside your box (genre). For example, if you write mysteries, you might learn a lot about characterization and relationships from a romance writer. If you are an author, you may learn a lot about visualizing from an illustrator’s session.
I like music. I’ve tried my hand at writing poetry and songs. That said, there is nothing in that category I would dare put up on a blog. Nonetheless, I took the above advice this past week and attended a Song Writing Workshop with Ken Medema. It was during a 3-day Worship Symposium at Calvin College. Most of the hour-long workshops only got 1/2 to a whole page of notes in my journal. The one presented by Ken got a full three pages in my journal. The man is amazingly talented and gifted, and funny to boot. It was fascinating to watch creation at work. I could easily sit in on a year-long course with Ken and every day learn more things about writing. From his hour-long workshop, I shall abbreviate even further.
A few things I learned from Ken about writing:
1) A Writing Exercise — find a song (or story) and write another one in that style (or voice);
2) Pick a theme to go throughout the song (or story);
3) “Tighten the fence” — an illustration meaning why put a fence around your entire yard when only the garden needs it? In other words, focus the theme. If you want the theme to be hope, pull in the fence to whom the hope is for, where the hope comes from, is it hope in the past, present or future, etc.;
4) Choose every single word with care;
5) Choose every phrase with care;
6) Another (poetry/song) writing exercise — practice speaking in pentameter to your friends, or daily writing them yourself, to make “couplets;”
7) Have fun with words.