Unlock the Muse – October 10, 2018

The days are getting shorter, and night falls early. I don’t like the idea of driving to work in the dark every morning and driving home in the dark every evening, but I do appreciate that the darkness makes my children sleep longer in the mornings.

Inspire
Your writing prompt for this week is as follows:

Think about your most emotional moments. Write about how you could use them in your work.

The loss of a loved one. The birth of a child. That horribly embarrassing moment when you were in high school. Powerful emotions evoke powerful memories. Even if the personal memory itself doesn’t fit into your work, try to capture the essence of that emotion.

Encourage
There is little that is more frustrating as a writer than to have a flash of brilliant idea only to lose it before it can be committed to paper. Different writers deal with this in various ways. Some keep a notebook handy at all times, others might used their phone to save a quick note. Anne Lamott in her book, Bird by Bird, uses index cards that she carries with her to jot down that moment of insight or interesting observation. She says:

Sometimes you’ll sit down or go walking and your thoughts will be on one aspect of your work, or one idea you have for a small scene, or a general portrait of one of the characters you are working with, or you’ll just be completely blocked and hopeless and wondering why you shouldn’t just go into the kitchen and have a nice glass of warm gin straight out of the cat dish. And then, unbidden, seemingly out of nowhere, a thought or image arrives. Some will float into your head like goldfish, lovely, bright orange, and weightless, and you follow them like a child looking at an aquarium that as thought to be without fish. Others will step out of the shadows like Boo Radley and make you catch your breath or take a step backward. They’re often so rich, these unbidden thoughts, and so clear that they feel indelible. But I say write them all down anyway.

Find a method that works for you and write down those beautiful goldfish before they can swim away.

Equip
It’s grammar week, and again I refer to Strunk and White’s, Elements of Style. Rule #6 of their Elementary Rules of Usage is:

Do not break sentences in two.
In other words, do not use periods for commas.
ex. She was an interesting talker. A woman who had traveled all over the world and lived in half a dozen countries.

In this example, the first period should be replaced by a comma.

It is permissible to make an emphatic word or expression serve the purpose of a sentence and to punctuate it accordingly:
ex. Again and again he called out. No reply.

It’s important to understand the rules of grammar, even when writing fiction. Use the rules to your advantage like in the above examples. Break the rules when it’s advantageous and works well for your writing. But for the most part, follow them. Poor grammar will interrupt the flow of the narrative and distract the reader.

Happy writing!

Among the changes I’m contemplating for the new year is posting on a new day. Rather than Wednesdays, I’m considering Tuesdays for this post instead. It’s a small change, but potentially significant as I hope it will help me spread out other posts throughout the week. As always, I’d love to hear from you!

Please consider sharing a link to your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask!

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