Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Riddle for Writers

What do writers and rivers have in common?

Both choose the path of least resistance, which makes perfect sense. Who wants to fight an uphill battle, go against the current, churn and flail instead of flow? No one, and for rivers, that’s no problem.

Not so for writers. Why? Because rationalizations please writers—not readers. Broadening your point of view for convenience or dumping a pile of backstory because it’s easy isn’t just weak writing. It actually robs you of the chance to solve whatever problem you face with an original, dynamic solution. This is the why the exercises in Don Maass’s “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook” are supremely effective: They make you probe deep under the surface for the genuine truths, the genuine energy.

You’ll never get that meandering downstream, floating on the current of whatever pops into your mind first. Your story will never reach its full potential unless you find a way to counteract the very human tendency to choose the easy route.

Tip: Constraint breeds creativity.

So here are some approaches to try:

v     Decide what readers need in every sentence of every scene—and supply it.
v     Follow standard rules, like minimal backstory and consistent point of view.
v     Don’t solve writing problems by saying you struggled with this one for too long.
v     Generate ten potential solutions to a writing problem. Choose the last one.
v     Don’t give up on the moment until you love it. Your readers will, too.

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