Writing Constructively

Writing constructively sounds simple enough, but the truth is, writing is tough. If the craft were easy, everyone would be doing it. This isn’t to say bad storytelling doesn’t exist because we’ve all come across terribly written stories. As an author, it’s good to understand when to write and when to wait.

Let me be a little clearer about the subject. Break out your Nook or Kindle and open ten random books. Read the first three chapters.

Perhaps you discovered several new authors. This is great. But those who you didn’t like, what turned you away? Terrible plot? Bad dialogue? Boring characters? Misspelled words? Combination of all the above?

A story might start with a great premise and plot, but if we, “just can’t get into it,” we’ll put the book down and look for another one.

See if you can identify good and bad writing in the two examples below.

Example 1

Thunderstorms sounded in the distance. Big raindrops bounced off the windows and lightning sliced across the gray sky.

“It’s time to go,” Dad said. “And don’t for get to put on your raincoat.”

“Do we have to?” Jacob croaked weakly in reply.

“Yes,” dad said.

“But I don’t want to,” Jacob sighed heavily. “I’ve never liked aunt Marty. She always pinches my cheeks too hard.”

“That’s how your Aunt marty shows her affection for you, son.”

Jacob trudged toward the door. “I guess. But her place is so boring. She doesn’t even have any videogames to play. And the toys are for little kids. I’m nine.”

Dad patted Jacob on the head. “If you behave, I’ll take you for ice cream afterward.”

Jacob smiled broadly. “Yippie.”

Example 2

The worst part about waiting to testify is I spend the entire time terrified the lawyers will uncover some huge mistake that screams how lazy and incompetent I am. I tell myself a hundred different ways that I always do the best I can…but I don’t really listen.

After so many appearances in court you’d think I’d have no problem when it comes time to testify. But it never fails. Every time the bailiff comes to get me from this small waiting room, the cycle begins.

The door swung open and a big woman with a horsey face and short gray hair enters. Her uniform hugs her well-nourished figure. The web belt is off-center and sags to her right, the holster almost resting on her thigh. She looks directly at me and I’m waiting to see if her voice sounds like John Wayne.

“Detective Rebecca Watson?” she asks in a soft voice.

“That’s me.” I wipe my sweaty palms on my black slacks.

Like clockwork, my stomach twists into a knot, pushing its contents toward my throat as I stand and follow her into the courtroom.

Were you able to pick out the good versus the bad?

Great authors capture your attention and suck you in. This is what great stories are about. The authors we love didn’t simply sit down and draft a magnificent weave of words in one sitting. Some spent months, while others took years to complete. But we’re all running toward the finish line.  

Sometimes we must put our project on hold. This may be a hard concept to swallow, but it’s true. Writing constructively is worth the wait. In doing so, you allow the story to come alive. To breathe. Enabling you time to find the direction it needs to be told. If not, you risk damaging your characters, plot, and dialogue. 

Good writing is a mixture of art and instinct. No one writes through pure dazed inspiration. Although this might be the way the story starts out in your mind, the reality is great stories are crafted, redrafted, and molded into the story it’s meant to be told.

When our narrative mind beckons us to write, we write. However, when the story becomes a jumble of words on the page, this is the time to wait, and not force it. As writers, we are either moving forward or backward. The process is every bit as important as the fulfilled goals.

Writing a great story is not simple and straightforward. Learning how to be patient can be the difference between eighty-thousand words of drivel and a polished masterpiece. It takes time, practice, and study.

Look in the mirror and ask, “Can I write constructively?”

I hope the answer is yes.

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