Monday, March 8, 2010

When the Picture Fades

Has this ever happened to you? You start a project with great energy. Your fingers fly across the keyboard. You write a page or two or fifteen. You down a pot of coffee to stay alert and try to keep up with the action. Your characters speak—and you hear them. You watch them dance. You fear for their lives. You cry their tears.

Then the picture fades.

What do you do? What happens when the spark goes out? Do you quit? Give up? Take a nap?

Here’s what you do. You clean the toilet, scrub the shower, and mop the floor. When you’re done, you wash your hands, of course, then you sit back down and stare blankly at your computer screen. You read your piece out loud very slowly, noting strong areas and highlighting weak spots. You listen to your own inflections and mark the sentences you tripped over. And you ask yourself the following questions:
  • Who cares? Is your story worth a reader’s time?
  • How did this happen? Did I exploit nouns and verbs?
  • Does it matter? Is every aspect significant?

You want to write something that people will read. Reading a book, short story, or article is a time investment. Offer something of value to your audience.

Eliminate as many gerunds and participles as possible. Minimize adverbs and adjectives. Reduce clauses. Show, don’t tell. Appeal to the senses.

Give your reader credit. Trust that he/she knows things like tears are salty and oceans are sandy, but do authenticate your characters with unique details. If your characters came to life, you’d want your readers to recognize them.

Now take another look. Has the vibrance returned? If not, go eat a snack, start a load of laundry, and give the dog a bath. And try again tomorrow.


Dawn Herring said...

It is so true working around the home can often spark inspiration. Great advice, Jodi!

Dawn Herring

Jodi Whisenhunt said...

Yes, housework can spark inspiration--or it can clear your mind of the muck and allow the inspiration to shine once again.

Thanks, Dawn!

Freely Living Life said...

Hi there!

I found you through "Friday Follow" and am now following your blog through Google Friend Connect! :)

I am looking forward to reading more of your posts. Come on over and visit us when you get a free moment. <3

I am Harriet said...

Hi there.
Stopping by via Friday Follow to say hello!

Enjoy your Friday.

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

Thank you for the good advice.

Heather McDougle said...

I'm following you from Friday Follow!

Amanda T said...

Hey there! I'm a new follower from Friday Follow. Hope to see you around my blog sometime! And please feel free to check out my most current giveaway for 1 of 3 Xbox 360 games :).
Take Care.

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