“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
… Mark Twain
If you write poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, essays, articles, stories or songs — you are a writer. And because you generally write alone, this blog is for you. In answer to the question, “Is anybody out there?” consider mine the voice of a friend, sister, and supporter.
In my own writing practice, my writing rules are simple and few:
Put the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
Never a day without a line (nulla dies sine linea — Horace 65-8 bc).
Get it down, don’t wait for it to be good.
Once it’s down, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
Some days my butt hits the seat and nothing happens. Stuck, blocked, whatever you want to call it, I can’t get going. At such times, I assign myself simple exercises with an emphasis on fun. Intentionally basic, these can serve sophisticate and novice alike. Here are some favorites:
Vivid Verb Play
She went, walked, waddled, sprinted, sauntered, staggered, stumbled, strutted, bounded, ambled, plodded, galloped, raced, tip-toed, crept, crawled, limped, darted, drove, bounced, cartwheeled across the lawn.
Well, which was it? Did she sprint or saunter, walk or waddle?
Which is the most accurate and vivid verb? How many ways can one cross a lawn? Which verb eliminates the need for an adverb? If she walked slowly, for example, isn’t it more precise to say she sauntered or ambled or plodded or meandered? Economy and precision strengthen a piece. Yes?
Brainstorm at least ten verbs for each sentence below. Have fun with it.
The cow ______ over the moon.
The mouse ______ up the clock.
The horse ______ …
The drunken woman ________ …
The silly young girls ________ …
The spacecraft ________ …
For added fun, scan the original sentence, “She _______ across the lawn.” Note the lack of specific, concrete detail. Who is the “she” who “what-evered” across the lawn? Now, check out this alternative:
Eighty-year-old Lucretia Batz sprinted across Mathilda Dumwitty’s front lawn as Mathilda’s terrier, Crackers, lunged and snapped at her heels.
Overdone, perhaps, but fun. Word play stimulates the mind and strengthens the writing muscles. The sillier or more outrageous, the better. For now, go wild. It’s a great way to work through a block and play with specificity.
Rewrite the following:
1. She lifted a great weight. (Who is she? Other verbs for lifted? “Show” this great weight with words.)
2. The thing broke the window.
3. The stuff came out of the container.
4. They had a fight there.
5. The car went down the road, went around the corner, went into the guard rail and …
6. The concert audience came into the auditorium, went to their seats and did things while they waited.
Create more of your own. Specificity and vivid verbs are the goals here. Editing comes later. Play and have your wild way with words.
Until next time,