Sink Your Teeth Into Writing

Sink Your Teeth Into Writing

If we set ourselves manageable goals, write at a certain time every day, shut out distractions, and forge on even through boring sections, we're still only doing half the job that our creative writing requires. Writing isn't just "getting stuff done", after all; it's supposed to be a form of artistic expression, a means of communicating our most heartfelt thoughts to the world. We need gusto in our writing. So today I want to remind you of a few ways to sit down and sink your teeth into your writing with passion and determination.


We're regularly forced to write spontaneously on a prompt when we're still students, but once we get to be big kids we think we don't need these silly goads anymore. That's the wrong attitude to take about freewriting, however - it's used so often in classes because it oftens produces the freshest, most lively and most off-the-cuff work. If we're working on a giant, stiffly plotted novel, it can help to stop and try writing something different for a while - something that demands we improvise, adapt, and pour out a little un-careful emotion.

Work on your inciting incident.

If you're working on realistic fiction, you might feel a certain nervousness around choosing the event that gets your story going. We want things to seem realistic, and often this translates as mundane or subdued. To fill your writing with passion and verve, try ratcheting things up a notch. Instead of beginning the story with a typical school day, begin with your main character cheating on a test for the first time. Instead of a guy (or girl) being bored at work, start with the day layoffs were announced or a disgruntled employee pulled a prank. We want to read about trouble more than about the typical; so show us that your novel is up to no good.

Introduce some violence.

It may seem pretty simple, but we shy away from real action all too often these days. Instead of putting in another listless conversation between a husband and wife, introduce some element of violence into the story. Whether your characters lose it, or a peripheral character invades the story, we need a sense of urgency and danger to feel that the author is fully invested in his story. So invest yourself - put your character in danger, or let him feel genuine physical pain. Let him lose a tooth, or a leg for that matter. Our characters can't always stay pristine.

Remember the last time you felt on the edge.

When you feel overwhelmed by stress, anger, or sadness, it doesn't feel like you could calmly narrate your state of being, doesn't it? To make the extreme moments of your story more vital, you've got to access the real experience of those emotions. I'm talking about Mark Twain's old advice, "Don't just say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream." Sink your teeth into a scene by accessing the emotions of the moment directly and letting them play out on the page.