Friday, April 8, 2011

Sharpening the Saw

There's an old story about a man who was trying to cut down a tree. He was working long and hard and not getting very far. A traveler came along and could see what a hard time the woodsman was having. After watching the woodsman labor for a short time, it became apparent the poor man was using a very dull saw.

The traveler asked how long it had been since the worker had sharpened his saw. "Oh, I don't have time for that. I'm too busy sawing."

Reading one article per day from your favorite writer's magazine, or one chapter a day in a how-to-book will sharpen your saw, hone your writing skills, and make your writing much better - and probably go faster too.

It's a little like priming the old-fashioned pumps. You had to pour a little water into the pump to get it working, then a clear stream of refreshing liquid poured forth. We have to pour a little expert advice into our brain to spark the natural creativity that's there; then that wonderful, clear prose can pour forth to refresh our readers.

When I started writing, I was in a terrible rush to finish the re-write on the book Covenant had accepted. When this concept was suggested, I couldn't bear to stop writing to read "how to do it" - instead, I just plowed on through the manuscript as if I knew what I was doing. (I didn't.)

Now fifteen years and twelve books later, after taking a couple of years off from writing, I picked up an old story to finish. But upon reading it, I decided my saw was definitely not sharp enough after all that time. I began reading articles that I had saved from old writer's magazines before I tossed them (I was cleaning out my writer's closet.) I discovered some absolute gems there - suggestions that I immediately incorporated that made the story so much better. So now on my list of things to do everyday is "Read one article on writing." As long as I'm writing, I might as well take advantage of all the great advice from master craftsmen that's available. And hopefully, this will be the best book ever!


Anonymous said...

When is the new book going to be published? Is there a name for it yet?? I LOVE your books!

Lynn Gardner said...

I'm still writing and editing and revising and changing everything! I'm taking a writing class that will make it wonderful (I think!) but that is slowing the process. I have to keep going back in to add more depth and character development and surprises here and there. So if it takes me two more months to write it, another month to edit (again) and then submit it - we'll be lucky to see it on the book shelves for Christmas 2012. If anyone wants to publish it! Thanks for asking. I'm SO glad you enjoy my books!