The Miraculous Minutes In Writing

I’ve noticed something before when writing, and it struck me again, over the weekend.  If you write, you  know there are “good” days, and there are “bad” days.  And for many, it may seem there are more bad days than good, right?  So, how can you get more good than bad?

Let me tell you something I’ve found out.  I won’t be able to explain it, I can only tell you about it, and I can’t promise it will work for you, but it does for me.  I’ve already posted once about little things I might do to help open up my head and get something written down on paper:

But…, I didn’t write about this other thing in that post.   This interesting little trick has helped me as much, if not more than all of the other tips I put out there before.

Good days are when your fingers can barely keep up with the words that are spewing out of your head, and I mean spewing. (I like that word, except when it’s used to describe someone who’s got a stomach virus.)  On those days you’re almost in a frenzy while typing because you know, you just know, what you’ve written is so darn good!   Then again, considering  my next post might be on delusional thinking of writers, make of it what you will about it being darn good.

Bad days are when you believe everything you’ve written absolutely sucks.  It’s so bad that when reading it out loud to your dogs, it makes them leave, casting “you really are horrible at this,” sorts of looks as they exit with their tails tucked.  And you can’t even get them to come back by squealing “Treat!”

So, what’s the tip?  It will come as no surprise to most of you, it’s READING.  But, it’s not the kind of reading where you cozy up in a chair, with a cup of coffee, and the plan to read for hours on end…no.  This is the kind of reading you do with purpose, it’s reading to “study” how others have formed their sentences, it’s reading to look at words and the flow of them.  Yesterday, while working on Book 2, I knew the writing was so bland, it was making even ME fall asleep while I tried to peck out words that would grip a reader and make them turn pages.  It was nothing short of terrible.  It was BAD, and I began to worry about what my agent would think.   Would he wonder “why in the hell did I sign her?!?!?”   I freaked when I thought about that.   I needed something …, and I looked at the books  lining up the bookshelves in my office.  I thought, how did they do it?  I walked over and selected three of them, two that are in the vein of what I’m writing about, but one was so different from my storyline, I wasn’t sure why I chose it.  But, it ended up being the one that surprised me.  The book is by Diane Williams and the title is,  “VICKY SWANKY IS A BEAUTY.”

Let me just say, IMHO, this is an odd little book.  I bought it because somewhere, at some point in my internet browsing, I landed on these rave reviews –  I think they were on Timothy McSweeney’s site:

I’m always on the lookout for the one that others consider to be “the writer of all times,” or “the masterful new debut” author – just so I can see how they did it,  so I can see what their writing style was like and what it was that won those folks over.  Here’s the thing, I don’t “get” the stories in this book at all.  They aren’t even close to what I’d normally read.  They are snippets of life, describing only seconds or minutes, about obscure people in obscure places, random thoughts like a peep hole into someone elses’ life.   Yet, it’s the way she writes, using choice words with such crispness, even if you don’t “get” it, you like it.

It’s hard to describe how it helped me, and I only read a passage or two.   I closed the book, walked back over to my laptop, sat down and wrote a paragraph that put the previous three pages to shame.   It was like some sort of mini miracle.  It was a few minutes of writing with the knowledge it was better than what I’d done all day, and it made me feel like I’d not wasted the effort of the previous hours.

It’s not the first time this has happened, but the true test was when I came back to my writing this morning.  I re-read what I’d written yesterday and…, I didn’t change one word.  VICKY SWANKY IS A BEAUTY, and sometimes, so are the words within.


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