Writing Tip of the Day: Stop and Smell the Roses

I’m no poet.  I never had much interest in being one.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t admire a poetic turn of phrase.

Sometimes, writing a prose novel becomes an exercise in accidental poetry.  The writing is really coming to you and then all of a sudden a phrase finds its way into your fingers that makes you pause.  You realize: Huh, not bad.  That actually sounds real nice and clever.  It sounds like the real deal, but it doesn’t feel like the real deal purely because it felt like an accident.

I like stumbling upon a great sentence (whether or not it’s an accident), but on certain days, no matter where I stumble, that great sentence is just too hard to find.

On such days I recommend the stop and smell the roses method.  Sometimes it’s good to just stop and spend an hour or an afternoon or a day finding the perfect few phrases.  Not the right phrases.  Not really good phrases.  The perfect ones.  We prose writers may not be poets, but we are still writers, and prose doesn’t have to be the opposite of poetry.

That’s not to say you are writing junk on every other occasion.  Nonetheless, do you always work on the wording like a true madman?  We can say that we do, but we know that great poets can spend weeks or months or years on a poem of a few lines.  Do we devote the same energy to each word of an 80,000 word novel?

If you’re bored with your story, if you feel like a change of pace, of if you just want to try it out–take a few hours and pick a moment that needs a bit of linguistic majesty.  Then prove to yourself that you can find the perfect words.  Regularly doing this might make that accidental stumbling a bit less accidental.

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