This site is about writing. Periodically, I will post tips here to help you improve your writing, get published, and sell. Whether you’re trying to give life to a compelling short story, thinking about forging a provocative novel, aspiring to write poetry that paints a mellifluous sound picture, attempting to construct your first play with dialog that vaults off the page, or tinkering with song lyrics, I will try to help you improve the odds of success. When I say this site is about writing, I mean quality writing. If you want to emulate authors and produce second rate copies of submarine thrillers, this is not the place for you. Rather, I want to promote writing as an art. Like a painting, a piece of writing requires a palate of colors. The writer chooses his “colors” to create a style that is intriguing and timeless. Just like painting, writing can be learned, but there is a part of writing that cannot be learned—what each writer brings that is unique. Readers enjoy writing that transports them to another level of consciousness—without drugs. The writer’s imagination connects with the readers imagination to create another dimension outside the pages of the book. Being a writer is close to being a god who creates something from nothing. Don’t be put off by this, being a god is fun.
Rule Number One: Don’t try to write like somebody else. Being unique is the best way to get published. In fact, the only thing you really have to sell is your own uniqueness. Everyone is different, like a walking fingerprint. It’s your personal, individual experience and idiosyncratic style that will get you noticed, not your ability to impersonate. Rule Number Two: Avoid clichés. There are so many of them floating around. Given the society we live in today, we are bombarded with clichés, and in the midst of this ocean of bromides we sometimes lose our own voice. Don’t write the obvious. Write something surprising. It’s like trying to get someone’s attention in the middle of New York’s Pennsylvania Station. You have to shout (metaphorically). Speaking of New York, I remember walking through Central Park and coming across an acrobatics troop. In a few succinct moves they were able to capture the audience. Then they didn’t let go. The act was honed. No dead space. No letdown of energy. That’s the kind of writing I am talking about.
Here’s the opening of St Vitus’s Dance, my new novel published by All Classic Books:
Dawn came up from riverside, throwing warm pineapple light across greasy streets. I swam with rip tide. Dawn. Noon. Dusk. Full moon. Sundowners’ land of blue giraffes, doctors’ night of howling beasties. Emergency shifts have no beginning, middle or end. They’re haunted. Big, red rescue trucks come and go, carrying gorked storks from senior homes, frozen men off grates, mouthy winos out of funky bars, shattered women beaten senseless, chubby cops with chest pain, punks in cuffs claiming brutality, pregnant girls with no clue, accident victims sent by Jacoby and Meyers, and Williams and Sonoma. Trauma code alert!
Does it grab the reader’s attention and hold on? I hope so. If you notice, I begin by animating dawn, as if it is a creature crawling up from the river bank. “Pineapple light” and “greasy streets” are both unique modifiers for the voice of the narrator. I emphasize the narrator’s idiosyncrasy with “I swam with rip tide”, which is a troubling image. Then our narrator encapsulates the strange miasma of time in the emergency department with the terse “Dawn. Noon. Dusk. Full Moon.” The surrealistic atmosphere of the emergency department is further illuminated with “Sundowners’ land of blue giraffes, doctors’ night of howling beasties.” The ensuing descriptions of patients use exotic modifiers, such as “gorked storks” and “mouthy winos”. I am trying to establish the mood of the piece and I am trying to imagistically create the fast-paced, crazy world of a trauma center in a big city. I am also describing the character, the narrator, through the words he uses—in essence, he is both telling the story and drawing a picture of himself at the same time. As you can see, much thought went into the choice of words. I am always trying to defy the ordinary and heighten the extraordinary in the world I am creating.
In my next post, I’ll go into more detail about how writing can be infused with electric
pace and poetry—which will help sell your work.