Writing Exercise #1 from Steering the Craft: Being Gorgeous


She watched as the frost spread in cracks across the night’s cloudy face as her breath hissed out of her throat.    She liked the way it creaked into the dark silence.

She wasn’t sure she could get her car unstuck; the snowdrift she’d skidded into was easily six feet deep, and she, shovelless, stared resignedly at the mess.  Fine.  She’d go on foot.  The snow spread out, still, silent.  Her breath, the air, the dark–it was all static, a mess of electricity, all chaos, yet so still.  She knew where she needed to go, and would get all she needed from that buzzing hum around her.

The snow alternately swished and groaned under her boots.  A buried branch snapped under her left foot on the next step.


Okay, that’s all I’ve got for the “Being Gorgeous” activity from Steering the Craft (mentioned in the previous post).  I kind of can’t believe I’m posting it, because I hate it so much.  I particularly hate trying to write fancy, and I also hate writing with female protagonists, but the sound of “she” worked better than “he” here.  I mean, I’m not disclaiming: I know it’s truly awful.  Anyway, writing it brings up several issues for me, which is what I want this post to ACTUALLY be about.

1) How do people write fiction?  Wait, this didn’t have to be fiction.  Why did I do that, then?  I HATE writing fiction.  I haven’t a clue how to do it.  I mean, do people get the stories in their head first and THEN try to work them out?  This is the only way I could possibly make sense of the process–to plan it all out, to have it entirely conceived in my head, and THEN try putting it on paper.  But I don’t write anything ELSE like that.  So what is that?

2) How can I get myself to stop TRYING to write and actually just write?  I mean, that’s what I do here, on this here blog, but does this qualify as writing?

3) I like the sound of my natural voice in writing.  It sounds like me, and it sounds engaging as hell, I must say!  I am engaged by my own writing voice!  Why doesn’t that work out when I’m TRYING to write?

4) I really hate the idea that writing should come naturally from your soul or whatever.  I mean, I like thinking of writing as a craft, as something a person can hone and tweak and examine and…well, you already know this if you’ve read my blog at all.  Anyway, though, my total stuckness whenever I make actual attempts to do what I probably foolishly consider “real” writing speaks to the verity of this statement that I so despise!

5) How unsure of myself can I be?  I mean, it’s all writerly insecurity, I guess.  I try too hard.  I fail.

6) I am a very auditory sort.  I like sounds better than pictures and such.  Shouldn’t this have been easier and more fun for me?

Anyway, there are questions from the book that I’m supposed to answer (well, discuss, actually, but I don’t have a writers group, so…) after the exercise.  Let’s do it!

Did concentrating on the sound of the writing release or enable anything unusual or surprising, a voice you haven’t often used?

If, by ‘anything unusual or surprising,’ you mean “a shitty voice that isn’t mine at all and incredibly cliched, irritating writing,” then yes!  This exercise enabled just that.  I don’t fault the exercise; I fault my own issues with Writing.

Did you enjoy the exercise, or was it a strain?  Can you say why?

Obviously I did not enjoy it because of my crippling insecurity as a writer.  It felt like trying.  Also, I think maybe my process means editing for sound (I mean tweaking for more sound) in subsequent drafts rather than trying to pour all the sound in at the beginning.

I think I need to consider, too, that the problem I’m having may be the one I see so often in student writing: too many abstracts, not enough concretes.  I’m not so hot at description, and that feel like what this exercise boils down to somehow.  Am I missing something?


4 Responses to “Writing Exercise #1 from Steering the Craft: Being Gorgeous”

  1. 1 J

    This was my SECOND attempt at being gorgeous, by the way. The first was equally bad. I think I was describing butts on seats or something. “The contours of…”

    OH GOD.

  2. 2 sassy

    J! That was a beautiful, incredible paragraph of writing/fiction! SIt was something that comes directly from a page in a novel. As I read it, I thought, Damn! How does she do that? She could write a friggin book!

    I agree that fiction writing is impossibly hard, but apparently you’re really good at it. Give yourself some credit: you are an excellent and entertaining writer.

  3. 3 Mavina

    Hey now, let’s not get stuck on your little pittypot. When you are there there is a voice that says you suck at most any and every thing.
    YO!u obviously have a gift for telling a story, be it true or untrue (or a little of both). I think it is important to remember that one can only write fiction if one has had real experiences and certainly you reflect that in your couple of “fictional paragraphs”. What makes it so wonderful is that even if it is fictional it brings forth the imagery of the actual, and takes the reader to the experience of having driven off the road in the snow. The only thing that would have made it more believable(this is another aspect of writing fiction, if you can make the reader believe!!) is if this woman would have started to tear up and have her tears freeze in her eyes which would all sound like something I have been through. The woman in this story sounded so determined to resolve the situation with a clear head.THat’s what I got out of it. Keep writng everything, dorkis! It’s all important and in the end interchangable and fluid. In my world, anyway. THERE YO!u HAVE IT!!

  4. 4 J

    I just love you, wombsters.

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