Originality in Your Writing

"Writing", 22 November 2008

“Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

Voice and originality are similar in the sense that both are an elusive quality in your writing. You might even say that an author’s voice is what makes a piece original and fresh.

Disrupt your logical brain and see things in jump cuts and inexplicable juxtapositions and angularities.

Disrupt your logical brain and see things in jump cuts and inexplicable juxtapositions and angularities.

So, how do you stay fresh? David Corbett suggests changing something in your routine, such as:

  • Writing in a different place;
  • Writing longhand;
  • Dictating into a recorder;
  • Switching point of view;
  • Removing every modifier in your text and starting over.

Corbett’s most dramatic suggestion, however, was stolen from William Seward Burroughs, the American novelist, short story writer, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. It goes like this:

  • Print out a page of your writing;
  • Cut the page into quarters;
  • Rearrange the parts;
  • Retype the page in this quasi-jumbled state.

The effect is to disrupt your logical brain and see things in jump cuts and inexplicable juxtapositions and angularities. Now return to your work and keep the best of these angularities intact. Following is an example:

Original Piece of Writing

At Dufferin he turns left again and then right at Notre Dame. At each turn he glances at Bobolink and tries to read her mood, her state of mind. He notices that her hair is clean, curly, and sporting some fiddledeedees, that her nail polish is unchipped, and that the nylon jogging pants and Harley T-shirt are clean and pressed. Nevertheless, he notices that her eyes seem sad.

As they travel east on Notre Dame, she asks, “Can you bring me back to my sister’s?” as, at the same time, Connie’s voice drones over the Mike.

He hesitates and doesn’t answer. Instead he turns to Bobolink and says, “What did you ask me?” He knows what she said but wonders if she’ll pursue it.

“Can you take me back to my sister’s?” she repeats.

“Sure… Landlord troubles…?”

“What else is new?”

Bobolink is silent for several blocks until she spots a young woman pushing a baby in a shopping cart. Then she stares, and blurts out, “Welfare buggy!

“What?”

Welfare buggy…I’d hate to be that baby.” Bobolink has a soft spot for children and a disdain for her condition. But, for whatever reasons, she’s still in the cycle of being on and off welfare. She fiddles with her fiddledeedees.

Quartered Piece of Writing Retyped

  1. At Dufferin he turns left. Dame…At each turn he glances…Her mood, her state of mind…Clean, curly, and sporting some…Polish is unchipped, and that. Harley T-shirt…are clean and…notices that her eyes seem sad. As they travel east on Notre…Bring me back to my sister’s? He hesitates and doesn’t…Bobolink and says, “What…what she said but wonders if.
  2. “Can you take me back to my…Sure…Landlord troubles? What else is new? Bobolink is si;ent for several…young woman pushing a baby…stares, and blurts out, “Welfare…What? Welfare buggy…I’d hate to…a soft spot for children and a…for whatever reasons, she’s still…off welfare. She fiddles with…
  3. again and then right at Notre…at Bobolink and tries to read…He notices that her hair is…fiddledeedees, that her nail…the nylon jogging pants and…pressed. Nevertheless, he..Dame, she asks, “Can you..as, at the same time,…Mike…answer. Instead he turns to…did you ask me? He knows…she’ll pursue it.
  4. sister’s? she repeats…blocks until she spots a…in a shopping cart. Thern she…buggy…be that baby…Bobolink has…disdain for her condition. But…in ther cycle of being on and…her fiddledeedees.

Partial Revision of Piece of Writing

At Dufferin he turns left. At each turn he glances at Bobolink, checking her mood, her state of mind: her hair is clean, curly, and sporting some fiddledeedees; nail polish is unchipped; Harley T-shirt is clean and pressed. He notices that her eyes seem sad.

As they travel east on Notre Dame, she asks, “Can you bring me back to my sister’s?”

He hesitates, doesn’t answer. Then he turns to Bobolink and says, “What? He knows what she said but wonders if she’ll pursue it.

Well…what do you think?

Resources

  • Corbett, David. 25 Ways to Improve Your Writing. Writers Digest. Feb. 2011.
  • Gardner, Rachelle. Craft, Story and Voice. Rachelle Gardner.com
  • Mullany, Janet. Originality in Genre Fiction- An Oxymoron? Dear AuthorOct. 19, 2010.

M.J. Domet and the Power of Your Words

M.J. Domet, author of the book, ‘Waves of Blue Light’, is an inspirational speaker and workshop facilitator from Grande Prairie Alberta.

Workshop Facilitator M.J. Domet

Workshop Facilitator M.J. Domet

The author has helped hundreds of people to develop powerful inner communication skills and I feel lucky enough to have participated in one of her workshops.

The workshop was entitled, ‘The Power of Your Words: Using Emotion in Your Writing’. After listing emotion-words like love, greed, anger, hate and so on we were asked to do this exercise:

  1. describe our morning- facts only;
  2. repeat the description to incorporate an emotion word; and
  3. write the morning’s activities as we actually felt them.

Following is my attempt at the exercise:

Facts Only

I woke up, made the coffee and prepared breakfast. My wife cleaned the house: it was the day the house cleaner was coming. Then I hid in my office, edited my memoir, and listened to the two women talking downstairs in the living room.

Inserting an Emotion Word

I’m greedy. I want the most out my money so I can get personal things. So, when I awoke, all I could think of was, I’m getting the coffee and making the breakfast to enable my wife to clean the house before the cleaning lady re-cleans the house: No wonder they have time to talk. I could use that money to buy a new tennis racket.

Real Emotions

I was tired but I knew I needed to get up early: the house cleaner was coming. I don’t mind so I prepared coffee and made the breakfast. After all, the house cleaner coming means I have free time to write.

Now, you try it in your writing. After all, don’t we tend to remember the feelings we have more than the words when we finish a book?