Writers write, right? Here are five things you can do this week (with me) to become a better writer. And since big projects tend to scare (and excite, but mostly scare) me, we can take it day by day.
Wednesday: Choose a paragraph or stanza from your work (just one!), and home in on it. Really dig deep into your lines, don’t give so much as half a thought to the rest of the piece. Go through each word, one at a time, as if no other word existed but the one you’re focusing on. Do the same for phrases. Are you choosing active voice instead of passive? Are you using vivid verbs? Are your word choices as precise as possible? Think micro, not macro. Then you can bring the lessons you learn to your larger project.
I wrote this piece way in the beginning of this blog in 2012, called, “There’s a brief moment in the morning“.
“There’s a brief moment in the morning, before voices permeate my thoughts, and warped renditions of Edelweiss penetrate my ears from the third grade classrooms, before doors open and smartphone games irk my senses on the subway, a fleeting moment, between shrill laughter and barked orders, when my mind is still, and my cheeks feel the crisp air swirl around in the early silver dust at dawn.”
Well, for one, this sentence is way too long. It’s just one long sentence. Write shorter sentences.
Use of active voice is good. I try to avoid passive voice where I can. Let’s break it up.
There’s a brief moment in the morning: Why brief? Could have said, There’s a moment in the morning. A moment is in itself brief. Cut the darlings.
before voices permeate my thoughts: How fucking pretentious. Before voices break through. Before voices breach my thoughts. I like the word breach.
and warped renditions of Edelweiss penetrate my ears from the third grade classrooms: Shame, that was mean. But the sounds did in fact circle around the actual notes, like they were teasing a dog with a stick. Penetrate my ears: a bit too vulgar. enter my ears, filter through my ears, I was trying to create a circular image of notes floating around and tickling the ear folds.
before doors open and smartphone games irk my senses on the subway: going back in time on that morning. The doors open (automatic doors of the train). “irk my senses” I got really irritated at all the smartphones. People play games on their phones with the sound on, and it’s the same repetitive ping over and over again. I put a lot of emphasis on hearing here, it must be one of my most overwhelmed senses.
a fleeting moment: again, redundant. A moment is fleeting, hence the word moment. Cut the frills!
between shrill laughter and barked orders: Why did I say between? The moment happened before. Barked orders: not necessarily the attitude, but the rhythm of the language. Korean is a very staccato language, orders are short and direct. Shrill laughter: teenage girls
when my mind is still: Could have said when my mind is quiet. But also, still because nothing happens, it’s like a placid lake before the storm hits. Just a slow-down of activity. A breath. Close my eyes.
and my cheeks feel the crisp air swirl around in the early silver dust at dawn.: This is when I walked to school on a winter morning. This is at the beginning. The story goes back in time. Cheeks: only exposed part of my body as I trudge through the snow. Crisp air: Positive, I liked it, the pinch. swirl around: I walked past a dumpling shop every day and the hot steam mixed with the cold air and made this marvellous stream of white smog that hugged me as I walked to the train. Hence also the silver dust, it looked magical, fairytale stuff.
Do I use vivid verbs? I think so: swirl, irk, penetrate (not so much), permeate (could be better)
Precise word choices? I did try to really think about my words before I write them down.
Now, to work! Sho, this was tough!