Monday, November 7, 2016

It's An Education . . .

Nathan Shumate’s Lousy Book Covers blog is an education. And not just on lousy book covers.

Thanks to the magic of authors posting portions of their work online, we get to read the wonders behind these covers. And for a writer, that’s where the education begins.

NOTE: I am NOT saying I’m a better writer than these folks. I make many of the same mistakes they do. But to see them made in another’s published work inspires me to make sure they don’t happen in my own writing. So that’s where the education comes in.

First, this offering:

The shimmering sun was a fiery blood red when it rose over the horizon, while a chill in the unclean air caused soiled marks to form on the watching crowd’s lips. The atmosphere seemed to be breathing. Developing. Thinking. Thinking like a monster, and was stirring with ideas and inventions. Then a magnificent structure came into view. Like some kind of perverse, silver religious symbol. But this wasn’t something religious. It was a rocket. The year was 1945. The place a factory munitions’ facility some forty miles from the mayhem of war ravaged Berlin.

Two comments here. I tend to do this repetition thing. And here it’s really annoying. And I do it a LOT more than this author does. So maybe I’d better cut it out, or at least make sure when I use repetition that it’s actually something worth repeating, right?

And the metaphors. Or, in this case, the incomplete metaphors. So the atmosphere was thinking like a monster. Stirring with ideas and inventions. Like a monster wearing a lab coat, then? And the like this, but it’s not this, but that? Wonderful.

Then this:

He was scared, excited and nervous, he wondered to himself if this would be an adventure he would return from or an experience he would remember for the rest of his life.

As the monkey stepped into the dark cave, he could not see any light shining through the inky darkness, yet he continued on his way. Stumbling in the inky darkness like a blind monkey hoping to see the light soon.

Reminded me first off of this:

I probably do this too. Need to go through my writing and make sure I’m showing, not telling.
Also, that metaphor. A monkey stumbling through the inky darkness like a blind monkey. Wow. Imagery right here folks.

So that means I’ve probably got some faulty metaphors floating around in my writing as well. Time to go clean up.

I make these mistakes, and I’ve been a writer – even professionally – for twenty some-odd years. It’s an education to look at this stuff and see how far I’ve come, and then know I’ve got further to go.
How could I use this kind of thing to help my writing students, without discouraging them? Given the rigidity of our curriculum, I’m not sure. I keep coming back to the idea of doables, giving them real-life examples of where they can use the techniques they’re learning in writing they’ll do every day, or at least every week. For someone like me, these writing flaws are easy to see, if not necessarily easy to get rid of – though I like to think I’ve made progress in this arena with Doleful Creatures. Yet DC still isn’t finished, and has been rejected by two publishers (and looked at by a third that subsequently went out of business).

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