© 2016 by Lynda McDaniel, author & book coach


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Imitate to Innovate Part 2

Earlier this month, I shared the writing technique that bolstered my writing more than anything else: Imitate to Innovate. I started by showing you how I use deconstruction to fire up my own creativity.

To help you delve deeper into deconstruction—and into what inspires you—try the following steps. When you read something that makes your heart do funny things, take a closer look. Ask yourself:

  1. How does the piece start? How does the writer grab your attention: describing a scene, telling a story, asking a question, creating a “what if” scenario?

  2. What’s in the middle? How did the writer organize the information? What techniques made the information flow seamlessly? For nonfiction: bullets, numbers, transitions, subheads? For fiction: setup/payoff, reversals, ticking clock? How did the writer keep the middle from sagging (an all-too-common problem)?

  3. Did the writer use the power of story? Stories to grab attention, to make a point, to make the message more memorable?

  4. How does it end? Is there a notable resolution? Does it wind everything up with a twist or finish the scenario started at the beginning? Is there a call to action, when appropriate?

  5. Do creative techniques make the document more engaging? For example:

  • A variety of sentence structures: short, long, in-between, even fragments. Together, they add punch that keeps readers engaged. Too many long sentences lull them to sleep.

  • Vivid verbs. Cut some of those boring is-are-were verbs that plague most writing. Replace them with brandish, festoon, launch, ravage, rummage, shout, taunt, unfettered, wither, and wilt, to list a few. Last week I read the verb canoodle and added it to my favorites list. Create your own list of vivid verbs.

  • Similes. Does the writer explain something complex with a comparison to something familiar? Similes help you bring your readers up to speed quickly. I keep a list of these, too, like this one from a grass-fed beef farmer: “Cattle eating grain every meal is like humans eating chocolate cake three meals a day.” That simile delivers memorable, visceral information in just 13 words.

  • Alliteration, pull quotes, rhyme, sensory information, bullets, and numbers. These writers’ tricks of the writing trade are proven to attract attention, make your message more memorable, and clarify your writing so your readers can absorb your message.

Rejoice when you read something that sizzles. First, it deserves your attention and appreciation. Second, it alerts you to a new level of writing you're poised to achieve. As you read, glean ideas that you can bring to your writing. And find added inspiration by reading something besides your usual sources. Take a different path and bring what you discover to your writing. You’ll find writing more enjoyable—and the results more than satisfying.

Would you like a free copy of the short story that started my fiction-writing career: “A Nose for Murder”? Just sign up below, and I’ll send you your own copy to enjoy. And from time to time, I’ll keep you posted with musings about writing and updates on my sequels to A Life for a Life and other books.

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"The most satisfying mystery I've read in ages." 
— Joan Nienhuis, book blogger