Wednesday, June 24, 2015
My Trick for Entering The Writing Zone
For me, the hardest part of writing has never been coming up with ideas or following story structure. The hardest part for me is taking the scene that’s playing itself out in my head and putting it down on paper in a way that makes a reader want to keep reading. My descriptions are flat, my pacing poor, my dialogue too “on-the-nose,” etc, etc. Basically I struggle with making the reader feel as though they’re experiencing the story instead of just reading about it. No matter how many books on craft I read, no matter how many words I've written, I often feel like a color blind person attempting to paint with colors. I just don’t have a good feel for the words.
One of the tricks I’ve developed to help me overcome this deficiency is to read books by other authors. Granted, all writers should read as much as they can, but my trick is to read a chapter or two from someone else’s book just before I sit down to work on mine. I don’t know if this is a left-brain/right-brain kind of thing, but after reading someone’s else’s words, I seem to develop more of an intuitive feel for the way words should work, and if I jump right into editing one of my chapters, I find my scenes flow much better. At least until the effect wears off. :(
Although this trick works with any well written book, I’ve found some books resonate so well with me that I can go back to them again and again. As a result, I’ve built up a stable of books I often turn to before every editing session. The trick is to find a scene or chapter that most closely mimics the scene or chapter I’m writing at the moment. Whenever I’m working on my Hogwarts story, for example, I naturally grab one of the Harry Potter books and read a chapter or two before I open my manuscript. For my urban fantasy, I pull out Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law, or The Thieftaker by D. B. Jackson (a.k.a. David Coe), since the style and tone of those books are similar to the style and tone I want for my story.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to copy their words or imitate their style. But when I read their words, my mind enters a kind of zone, a mental state that I find quite useful when I'm writing my stories. You’ll never confuse my wordsmithing skills with those of Sanderson, but my stories are definitely better when I use this trick.
Question of the Day: Do you have a favorite author whose books you read over and over again in order to improve your writing?