I’ve been working on a piece about the Grand Canyon that I’m hoping to finish by year’s end. Here’s an excerpt.
We walk to the rim after breakfast. A handful of us, me the only kid, gather in morning sunlight that takes its sweet time slanting through the juniper branches. The appointed pastor never comes, so a retired minister on vacation takes charge. I sit on the flattest rock I can find, but I constantly shift my skinny body. I draw in the dirt with a small stick. I bow my head and close my eyes when asked and say amen.
I open my eyes and watch the sun flick a switch, turning on the lights inside rocks that used to rest on the bottom of an ocean.
I have to cut this section, probably. We’ll see.
My friend Ross has a post up that I want you to read.
I used to base my success as a writer on publication. When that didn’t happen as often as I hoped, I changed it to how much I could accomplish. But since production varies on my schedule I changed how I measure success completely.
I now ask myself…
Now click through to his post and read the end of it. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ve been thinking about when it’s appropriate to use a section break in the middle of a story. When I asked a friend, who writes fiction, he told me he uses one when he changes point of view, location, or when he wants to emphasize that two ideas are both key—this is important and this is also important. I tend to overuse section breaks in my nonfiction, probably so I don’t have to think carefully about transitions. Too many section breaks and you get a story that feels fragmented, but breaks in just the right spot can be dynamic and powerful.
Do you use section breaks? How often, and why?
Following Friday’s post about adverbs, I want to note what my four-year-old knows about good writing.
Yesterday he was climbing into the bathtub for a pretend bath. I was brushing my teeth and watching him. He was wearing all his clothes, and he brought with him his favorite stuffed animal. Here’s what he said:
“Look, daddy, Tiger is going to take a bath. He is dirty. Here you go, Tiger. Here’s your nice bath. Splash splash splash. Wash wash wash. Play play play. Okay, time to get all dry and cozy, Tiger.”
I like that the entirety of my son’s verbal description of the bath itself was nine verbs in a row. That really is the heart of good story telling, isn’t it? Get your reader to the verbs, and make sure they’re good ones. Now for the rest of my day. Write write write. Edit edit edit. Write write write.
Last night while I was writing I noticed something insidious: a hidden adverb! We’ve all heard that weak writing relies on adverbs. We’ve all caught ourselves writing about a character “breathing quickly” only to ask ourselves, in near panic, What’s a single verb that means breathing quickly? So imagine my surprise when I reread the following sentence:
As rainwater poured in sheets off the roof beside them…
Poured is decent verb for rain. And “in sheets” helps describe how the rain is—hey, wait a minute! I’m modifying my verb with…duh duh dumm…a hidden adverb! Okay, it’s not technically an adverb, but it’s doing the same work: slowing down my readers and letting me get away with weaker verbs. My solution?
As rainwater sheeted off the roof beside them…
Anyone else discovered a hidden adverb in their writing? Anyone else like talking about sentences?