Writing Fresh

If your writing isn't as fresh as this orange, you better read this.

If your writing isn’t as fresh as this orange you better read this.

It’s writing Wednesday and today we are going to talk about writing fresh. Each writing conference I attend teaches me something new and sometimes these lessons profoundly change the way I think about writing. At this month’s LDStorymakers writing conference one of the most influential lessons I took to heart was also one of the simplest.

Write Fresh.

This idea was discussed by several presenters including the evening keynote Martine Leavitt. She spoke about her writing journey and how at times her life was so hectic that often her writing goal for the day was to write one perfect sentence that had never been written before.

Margie Lawson shared the same idea in her deep editing intensive workshops. She added ideas about how to use enhanced description and literary devices to keep the writing alive and also to make a greater emotional impact.

Both spoke at length about creating ideas and thoughts that hadn’t been seen before, about writing fresh.

The best way to learn about it is to try it. Let’s take a bland example and see if we can freshen it up a bit.

“Blake faced the gate and waited for the guard to let him through. He hated this place. It was ugly and smelled. If it wasn’t for the old crone, he wouldn’t bother coming. Somewhere in her addled head, she held the last clue to the resting place of his father.”

This example doesn’t let us feel what Blake is feeling, it simply tells us he hates the place. We know why he’s there, he is seeking his father’s body, but we don’t really care. Descriptions are minimal. We know he thinks the old crone is crazy, but that’s about it.

Let’s take the phrase “He hated the place” and let it sing. This seems like a perfect place to add a splash of backstory.

“Blake faced the gate and waited for the guard to let him through. The king’s dungeon brought back memories of dark nights in a cell not knowing whether he would live to see the sun. It was ugly and smelled. If it wasn’t for the old crone, he wouldn’t bother coming. Somewhere in her addled head, she held the last clue to the resting place of his father.”

Now the phrase “It was ugly and smelled” feels even more awkward and out of place. Not to mention that it gives the reader nothing to imagine. Let’s fix that. I think an alliteration would be nice here.

“Blake faced the gate and waited for the guard to let him through. The king’s dungeon brought back memories of dark nights in a cell not knowing whether he would live to see the sun. The smell of sweat and suffering oozed from the iron grates set in the ground. If it wasn’t for the old crone, he wouldn’t bother coming. Somewhere in her addled head, she held the last clue to the resting place of his father.”

I’m not crazy about the first sentence. If this was the opening page of a book I’d want it to have a stronger hook. It should instantly make the reader start asking questions.  I think the best way to handle this is to mix up some of the ideas of the first two sentences. Also, this would be a good place to add some sort of internal reaction.

“Blake faced the gate that led to the king’s dungeon and waited for the guard to let him through. The sight made him shiver and brought back memories of dark nights in a cell not knowing whether he would live to see the sun. The smell of sweat and suffering oozed from the iron grates set in the ground. If it wasn’t for the old crone, he wouldn’t bother coming. Somewhere in her addled head, she held the last clue to the resting place of his father.”

Only thirty-six words were added to change the somewhat dry original text to something far more interesting. Is it the most perfect example of adding fresh ideas? Nope. I’m not perfect and I pulled this example from the air. You could probably do much better.

In fact…

If you were to edit this text how would you have done it? What would you change first? What would you add? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Keep it fresh people, and as always,

Happy Writing!

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3 thoughts on “Writing Fresh

  1. Challenge accepted!

    “He was nearly there. Somewhere beyond this gate — under the hideous stench of air sucked dry of hope, within the tangled memories of an ancient hag — was the answer Blake sought. The last clue to the resting place of his father. He shifted his weight, impatient for the king’s guard to let him through. The sooner he got in, the sooner he’d get out again.”

    Like

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