And here we stockpile the things we learn about writing as we move through the year.

On Brainstorming


The situation: When doing the descriptive writing, we had to write out lists of all our tangible details and vivid verbs. Isn't that a bit awkward? Surely "real" writers don't make these huge lists every time they write a page.
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The truth: Great writers, especially writers who describe scenes and writers who produce fiction, possess uncanny abilities to notice details. Take for example how Steinbeck can make the dialogue of characters sound completely unique, so that if a person were to remove the "he said" and "she said" elements of Of Mice and Men, you'd likely be able to guess who was talking--Lennie, George, or Curley. Or how about how writers, when describing scenes, are able to pick out some subtle detail that you didn't even consciously notice was there? Do you notice those details? I don't. These writers are like artists who look at a leaf and see lines instead of the leaf, which enables them to sit down and draw a picture of the leaf because they have noticed those subtle details.

The discipline: That is what writers do, but we the feeble novices have to use disciplined techniques to help us do what we otherwise could not do. In this case, we use lists of words and details to help us think of every possible item to include in our writing, because if we didn't force ourselves to think of more, we would miss something. We don't have that trained eye, but this is a way to help us train. To return to the artist, it's like an early drawing class where the artist is trying to draw a face from a photo. It becomes easier if she flips the photo upside down, helping her see the individual lines instead of the whole face.

The result: If we brainstorm consistently while learning to write better the process will become more and more automatic, and we'll get so good at it that we won't need to sit down and list details and verbs. We'll be able to hold those details in our head and revise our writing to achieve those goals we know so well.