Friday, February 11, 2011

A is for Amateur, B for Bathtub

"Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of 15." --Willa Cather


I feel like I'm learning more and more about writing every day. Even, I have to admit, all the way back to the basics, like in a child's ABC's. This week I learned the letters A and B...

A is for As and Amateur. Rule #37 In The Writer's Book of Wisdom, 101 Rules for Mastering Your Craft, by Steven Taylor Goldsberry, states: "The 'As' Clause is for Amateurs." Goldsberry explains, "When 'as' works as a conjunction, meaning 'happening at the same time,' it tends to weaken the power of the two clauses it conjoins. In other words, when 'as' begins a sentence, it accelerates the reader past the information he just read and hurtles him toward what's to come, all without allowing him to savor the first...(and vice versa)...Either way, the power of the two bits of information deflates. E.g. As the monkey jumped from the ceiling, the rat scampered away.

He suggests we search our manuscripts for the use of the word 'as' then revise those clauses into their own independent sentences. Or use the coordinating conjunction 'and.' The above sentence would then read: The monkey jumped from the ceiling. The rat scampered away.

"Think about it," Goldsberry writes. "How often do you use 'as' clauses in conversation? As we walked into the store, we saw the book. Would you talk like this? It sounds affected. No, you'd say, We walked into the store, and we saw the book."

B is for Bathtub. In The Pocket Muse, Ideas and Inspiration for Writing, author Monica Wood shares a story from Jerome Stern's Making Shapely Fiction, where he cautions against writing the 'bathtub story.' "A bathtub story opens with the protagonist taking a bath (or occupying a similar confined space). During this bath, the protagonist thinks of, ruminates upon, wonders about, and analyzes the past, present, and future, but he never gets out of the bathtub."

What's the memory trick that's supposed to help you remember people's names? Well, to help me remember writing rules, I think I'll hang them on alphabet letters. A is for the amateur use of 'as,' and B is for bathtub, as in get your character out there doing something! If two alphabet letters can do this for me, think what will come with the other 24!

What great writing tip did you come across this week that you want to remember?

14 comments:

  1. These were great! Can't wait to learn about the other letters :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Loved these tips. Waiting for the other alphabets.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great advice! (And a great way to remember it!)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good point to make the dialogue AS natural AS possible. I wonder if I really do talk like this..... Hmmmmmm. :O)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love this! Sounds like a great book!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I like these. When I have used 'as' I've always disliked it very much. Now I know why.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great tips. C is for control. I have to remember to let my characters have control once in a while.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great post, Kenda! I feel starting a sentence with "as" is as (LOL!) awkward as starting one with a PPP or gerundive phrase. It just read strange to me.

    ReplyDelete
  9. We must be on the same wavelength, I've just learned the 'as' rule too, from Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (great book, in case you haven't read it).

    ReplyDelete
  10. What great advice - very interesting, especially about the word 'as'. Thanks for sharing the tip!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love this! But oh no, my current MS has the MC getting out of the shower then the phone rings--hmmm--maybe I will need a new beginning.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I’m loving this! All stuff I can use. You know, I never thought of ‘as’ in that way, but you are so right. The premature use of ‘as’ is distracting and puts the reader in a rush. Thanks for sharing!!

    ReplyDelete
  13. These are great tips! I'm looking forward to the other letters :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks to everyone for dropping in! More alphabet tips as the learning journey continues :-) Stay tuned...

    ReplyDelete