They say the devil is in the details. But I think good writing is in the details. Details that bring the readers into something familiar, and yet something fresh. Always that balance: avoiding the cliché and yet resonating with a larger audience.
Details like this from Courtney at Reflections*, describing her hands:
Marked by pale white lines of scars, memories of the past.
Broken by patches of skin torn away by table corners.
Interrupted by red-rimmed burn marks seared into flesh from careless baking.
Thin cuts from hurried zucchini slicing.
Or this bit from Katie Murchison Ross:
“And I have come to love the small things about our life together.”
“You mean like watching Netflix and cooking dinner and drinking wine?”
“Smaller,” I say.
The day to day things, the moment to moment things. Kisses on the cheek. Whispers for no reason. The tone we use when we talk. Coming home together after a night out. Car trips with my feet on the dash as we discuss everything from vocal resonance to twitter culture to spiritual growth. Resting my arms on his feet as we sit at opposite ends of the couch, reading. Looking over at him and thinking, here we are.
Giving “Daily Life” as the first prompt in this new blogging series gave both lots of wiggle room, for our lives are all very different, and yet could have felt very stiff, for the idea of daily life is so…mundane. Ordinary.
Whether in a blog post or a novel, transforming the ordinary into something extraordinary is all about craft. It takes the skills of language, of observation, of constructing sentences and of making choices. Share some, cut others. Use this word, not that. Focus tightly here, widen there. Often in our own writing, this is such a challenge to see, for our eyes are never freshest looking at our own works.
It is for this reason we read. For this reason, we enter a community like this one (I hope), where in seeing how someone else chooses to use language and details, we learn how to use them better ourselves. In someone else’s specific details, we are reminded of our own.
Questions I like to ask:
-Have I read this phrase/detail/description for this action before in another’s writing? (if so, find a new way)
-What about this is specific only to me and my life?
-Which things are unnecessary and overloaded?
When I first write, it is in a vomit version where it all comes out on the page. I do not edit until later, sitting with a mental scalpel to write mean notes to myself. (I’m not sure why I write mean notes to myself, but it’s weirdly empowering, not shaming.) This is when I ask the questions, layer in the details I missed, weed out the clichés.
As we grow to learn about story and how this relates in terms of blogs, think of details. Think of what makes your story yours, for in bringing someone into what is distinctly you, a connection is somehow made to their own life, however different. This week, as we think of our posts and of how we can incorporate this idea of story, let’s think details.
(Ps- Even though I only quoted two of you, I enjoyed reading all of the details of your daily lives and am so glad you all found your way here to link up! And I put an * by Courtney because she linked but didn’t make it on the linky, which I’m blaming on the fact that I was messing with my html the day of it.)
Week 2 Prompt: A Non-Sappy Love Post.
Yes, I’m talking Valentines this week. But not so much the Nicholas Sparks kind of love. Maybe your love is love for a pet. Maybe your love story is an anti-love story, or a story that’s rough around the edges, missing the saccharine and the fairy-tale ending. Maybe it’s childhood love, or love for a thing. Just give me some kind of unexpected love story.
Guidelines and So Forth
What is Not So (Small) Stories about?
I believe that there are no small stories. We might read about someone counting cobwebs if there were significance and the writing was done well. This linky is all about working on the craft of writing, in particular blog writing. My hope is that you will write for your blog more consciously, keeping in line with your subject and your personal brand (if you consider yourself as having or being a brand), but being more intentional about the way you organize your thoughts and put them on the page. Er—screen.
Who can join?
You. Your Mom. Your hairdresser. This is open to anyone with a blog. Of any kind. Yes, ANY kind. You don’t need to be a writer or even feel like you are a person who writes well about your subject. Want to get better at whatever you write about? Come and grow.
What should we write about?
Each week I’ll give a prompt that is super general. I may stop with the prompts after a while, but sometimes that helps people get started. I’m not going to be super police-y with this, but I do think it helps if people stick with the general flow of things. Use the prompt as just that: a prompt to get you thinking and writing. Stick with what is your normal subject so this doesn’t feel like some weird awkward thing hanging off your blog.
What are the requirements for the post?
-Do use the prompt, even if loosely (that’s why it’s general).
-Do try to keep your post no longer than 1000 words. That’s actually a LOT. Somewhere between 500-750 is probably the sweet spot.
-Do include the button (code is in my sidebar) and mention the linky at the bottom (or top, if you like) of your post.
-Don’t be spammy and link to a sponsored post or something filled to the brim with ads and such.
-Don’t post something with extreme language or extreme graphic sex or violence. I have an eclectic readership and all, but few people want to read those things. I’m sure you can find a linky for that, if it’s your thing.
-Photos are always great, but not required. If you aren’t a big photog, you can snatch up creative commons photos or slap a quote from the post up on a background on picmonkey.
-Most bloggers are writing non-fiction, ie about their own lives, but I’d love fiction bloggers to join in. It might be good to distinguish this, though, so if you’re writing fiction, put a little note at the top or bottom about that. Unless you want a lot of comments telling you how sorry you are that your dad died, when it was just a story.
Any guidelines for the community?
-Call me crazy, but visit EVERY post. I know. I know. Here’s the thing: it’s not community otherwise. It’s just not. Take your lunch break and enjoy a good read. Do it before bed. If you have time to write, make the time to read. If we get super huge, I’ll revisit this. For now, visit EVERY post.
-Be positive. Comments are appreciated always, but not if they are snotty or judgey. That’s also NOT community.
-If you like something, consider commenting and maybe even sharing.
-Consider joining the Facebook community, where if you’d like to connect more and even get more detailed with critiques, you can.