Monday, April 02, 2007

Write Well

Okay. Check out these random chapter openers.

“In less than a minute, everything returned to normal.”

“Monday. Lunch. This time I stayed put when Stargirl came toward my table…”

“In the Sonoran Desert, there are ponds.”

“That was fifteen years ago. Fifteen Valentine’s Days.”

They’re from Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli. On a trip to New York, my literary agent recommended I read this book. It’s one of my new favorites. Because it’s fantastic. Because it’s beautifully written. Because it has a message that is meaningful.

But overall, it’s because, like Miss Snark says, “Ya got to Write Well.” And Jerry Spinelli does.

A few weeks back, one of the members of our writers' group announced we needed to raise the bar. No holds barred. Expect the best writing from each of us. After her words, there was silence. A loud kind of silence that bounced off the walls around us. We took this in. We nodded to agree.

It made sense to me, in a cerebral sort of way; we know each other well, we each have strengths to share, weaknesses to improve on. My pages sat before each of us. Wayne’s Gretzky’s words from a long ago interview came to mind: “You’re only as good as your last shift.”

As I work on my current novel, I know I owe it to myself to produce my best story. In a funny way, I owe it to the writers' group and to my characters too. Though my first draft’s done, it will be a good chunk of time until it sees the light of day, until it makes its way outside of our writers' group training camp. Plot, sequence, characters, setting. I will toil. I must. We have raised the bar.

And I vow, this day forward, to have great chapter openers, great clinchers, and great words in between. I’ll give it a shot anyways!


Melissa Amateis said...

Great post! There is no way my first drafts will ever see the light of day - there is far too much work to be done before that happens. I love digging into my characters and my plot, adding all the subtle elements of fiction to my story. Editing, for me, is when the real writing is done.

Therese said...

Thanks for this reminder, Lisa, that there's always room for improvement.

I feel like I did a decent job with SOUVENIR, but I hope my next novel will be even better.

Lisa Marnell said...

I feel the same about first drafts (and tenth drafts) ... can they always be better?

And when do you say enough?


Larramie said...

It's all about grabbing the reader by their hand and making them want to turn the page. A challenge, but a rewarding one!

Therese said...

Lisa, I think you say "enough" when ideas for improvements are no longer apparent to you and your critiquers/early readers.

(Provided a writer has a quality critique group, as you do!)