Have I been writing? Yes. In the past, I thought of writing as “working on a book.” Now I think of it in a different way. I don’t have to be working on a big project. I can be working on a scene for future use, recording a thought or memory in my journal, or polishing something I’ve already written. I can even be reading and call it research to improve writing.
Lately I’ve been working on my writing group’s anthology and doing a little of the above mentioned activities. Mostly though, I’ve been reading. I’m amazed at the ways different writers can use words to evoke feelings, describe a setting, or develop character. And dialogue…some of them can write some of the most realistic dialogue I’ve ever heard – er, read.
I needed a beach read the other morning and couldn’t find The Mastery of Love by Miguel Ruiz that I had taken to the strand the week before, so I selected a book off the shelf. My random choice was The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West, and what a marvelous selection it has proven to be.
Ms. West begins the novel with a description of Jess Birdwell’s home, a white clapboard; his family, including his good wife Eliza, a Quaker minister; Jess’ business as a nurseryman; and the land surrounding his home, so beautiful in the fall that “heaven and earth seemed bound together.”
As I read the opening paragraphs, I thought, “This is too good to be true. There’s got to be a fly in the ointment somewhere.” Sure enough, here’s the sentence that informs the reader of Jess’ vague discontent: “Jess wasn’t completely happy, and for no reason anyone could have hit upon at first guess.” Turns out it was music Jess was pining for, and there follows a fascinating story of an organ purchase and a woman who sits on the cold snow-packed ground in protest.
I’m also reading Jane Martin: Selected Plays based on a recommendation by a writing workshop instructor. It’s an awesome book filled with plays and monologues. I’m not planning to write plays, but I would like to try my hand at monologues. Although it’s a tad embarrassing to admit, I didn’t even know what one was until last week!
At night, I’m reading Into the Land of Snows by Ellis Nelson. It’s on my iPad and is an evening choice because of the iPad’s backlight. Reading it has been educational, and I’ve learned about sherpas, monks, yetis, and the Himalayas. Although it seems to be a YA novel, it’s holding my interest.
But back to Jessamyn West’s novel. I found this classic (my opinion) for $2 at a Friends of the Library Sale a couple of years ago. Lucky me. It’s a perfect book for actually studying the craft of writing. Whether I can improve my own efforts at scene and character description is another story.
What about you? What have you been reading and writing lately?