Eleanor Sullo

Eleanor Sullo
So it's 104 in the shade and you want me to smile?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

More about The Writer’s Vortex and the Writer’s Craft

In analyzing the writing of Louise May Alcott, and from her own experience as a novelist, biographist and memoirist, Susan Cheever writes that:
“Writing is a craft like anything else. Much of it can be taught; practicing writing makes writing better. There are rules for good writing and ways of reading that foster good writing.”
Those of us who write, or try to will most likely resonate with Cheever’s words. Rules for good writing pop into our minds, starting with the basics: effective vocabulary; acceptable grammar, eg., “He doesn’t listen well,” not “He don’t listen well” (except as appropriate dialogue);  good rhetoric, such as putting the most important, flashiest word or words at the end of a sentence, not the beginning (try it); strong verbs and fewer adverbs and adjectives make for stronger narrative; the effective use of hooks (grabbing the reader at the end of chapters, pages, paragraphs) and twenty-five other techniques we try to improve on. Knowing our characters, and our own voices, laying out a sharp plot with timely pacing, and creating effective settings and moods go without saying into our writers’ grab bag of tricks and necessities.
But what Cheever goes on to say in the paragraph started above adds an important kick to today’s commentary:
            “At heart, though, there is a mystery to what brings sparkle and power to something as simple as a line of words on a page. Writers often write their best when they are feeling their worst. Sometimes subjects they would rather avoid elicit their finest prose. Writers rarely know what alchemy of time, place and mood will find their truest voice. If they write every day, it’s because they do not know which days are the ones that count. Louise May Alcott was no exception.”
Alcott didn’t write what might be considered her best book, the blockbuster of its time, “Little Women,” until she was in her mid-thirties. Yet it was a book she fought putting her hand to, for years.
Remember to read seriously if you seriously want to write and write well. You could do worse than starting with “Louise May Alcott: A Personal Biography.”

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