You Like It? Steal It

(NaNoWriMo cheerleading post for November 8 – comment on this post if you would like me to address a specific topic)

After the first week of NaNoWriMo, sometimes I feel energized, and other times my writing seems stale, flat, and unprofitable.

The worst is when I realize I’m using the same darn sentence structure, over and over.  “The [subject] was [adjective],” for instance.  I hate that.  Even when I vary it, I’m likely to write, “[present participle], the [noun] . . .” *  I am appalled by my defaults.

That’s when I pick up a book I like.  And steal.

Steal sentence structures.

I don’t steal what they say, just how they say it.  For instance, here’s a random sentence from Connie Willis’s Bellwether:  “It was my day for encounters I couldn’t make heads or tails of, and that included my hair-bobbing data.”

I can use that structure, I say to myself, and I write, “It was my day (or week, or year) for . . . and that included . . . ”

Here’s another.  Try this one:  “I added a few more lines to my graph, and then just sat there and stared at the criss-crossing curves, the neatly plotted regressions.”

I like the way she uses that comma, and honestly, here the “and then” fits really well even though it can get repetitive.

Just don’t get caught by re-reading the book, which I started to do just now.  You can read it later, after you’ve finished your daily word count.  But if you haven’t voted yet today (it’s finally Election Day!), go vote now.

Take a really good book with you and find some sentences to imitate.

Next post:  Giving Your Characters Something to Live For.

* Though a participial phrase is a nice way to start a sentence, admittedly.  “Whirling happily in my starchy frock, showing off my biscuit-polished patent-leather shoes and lavender socks, tossing my head in a way that makes my ribbons bounce, I stand, hands on hips, before my father.”
(Alice Walker, “Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self,” 1983)

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