Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Use Your Senses

So I'm in first draft mode at the moment.

Which means I'm mostly writing dialogue and praying I don't die before I have a chance to do edits. That's one of my greatest fears. That I'll die, my first drafts will be leaked to the internet, and everyone will think, "Man, she really lost it..."

I took a class from Donald Maass a year ago that completely rocked my writing world. He said something that really helped me in my editing. "We experience people's qualities through the concrete."

He had us write a scene about when we discovered a quality in someone we hadn't noticed before. As we took notes about that moment in our lives, he called out questions. "What were you feeling at that moment? Who was there? What did it taste like? What did it smell like? What was the lighting? What triggered your discovery?"

When I'm writing my lousy, stripped down scenes, I remind myself that I'll be able to go back and fix it using this exercise. The biggest frustration for me in first drafts is the feeling that I'm not getting my point across well. If you're having that frustration at the moment, follow Donald Maass's advice and find those concrete aspects of your scene. We tend to focus on what our character can see, but think through those other senses:

  • What do they hear?
  • What do they smell?
  • What do they taste?
  • And what do they feel with their hands, and in their soul?


  1. I'm having some first draft woes myself at the moment. Like, "I can't write this book, so naturally it's the one that will sell on proposal . . ." LOL.

    Maybe this will spur something. Come on, story, DEVELOP!

  2. I love your blog. Am going go sign up! This is good stuff.