Alright, it’s summer. For many of us, that means snowcones, sunscreen, and family vacations. For the readers among us, it can be a terrific time to kick back under a colorful umbrella with a fun beach read (or for strange people like me, beach reads and creepy thrillers, plus some sci-fi thrown into the mix).
But for writers, especially writers with families and other commitments, summer presents a challenge: precious little time for writing.
*Mental health disclaimer: if you are a writer or an artist of any kind, you MUST absolutely CREATE TIME for your craft. I tend to agree with Kafka, who said that “a non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” But it often isn’t easy to entertain the muse at the height of summer fun, while wet towels grow mildew and bored children search YouTube for tips on “how to make a bomb with leftovers from the fridge.” Balance is key, I think.
The good news? If you have access to a library, bookstore, or the Internet, you can work on your writing style even when you don’t have time to write. From the publishing frontlines, here are two non-writing ways to improve your writing:
Dissect the first page of at least ten books. The first page of any published book should be a finely honed specimen of solid writing. By the time a book hits the shelves, a slew of beta-readers, trusted friends, agents, and editors have weighed in their two cents about every word on that page. So grab your library card or Kindle and STUDY UP on at least ten books of your own choice. Does page one grab you? Why or why not? What makes you want to keep reading, to take that coveted glance at page two? Is it the action? The nuance? The voice? The main character? What about pacing? Sentence structure? Paragraph length? This is more than mere literary analysis. Trust your own opinion. Make it personal.
Critically read the first chapters of five books in your genre. Writers learn from other writers. So grab (or download samples for) at least five books in the same genre you write, and read the first chapter for each one. What happens in the first chapter? How much backstory does the writer withhold about the main character, and how much does he or she surrender? At the end of the chapter, what do you know about 1) the main character, 2) the plot, and 3) the external and internal conflict? How did the writer go about establishing that knowledge in your mind? Again, make it personal. This is your chosen genre, after all. Your opinion matters.
So there you have it, two free and simple ways to improve your writing this summer, without breaking a literary sweat. In the next post, I’ll address poolside ideas to strengthen your social media platform… with a cyborg twist.