Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dirty Writer's Secrets

Shhhh... don't share the secrets!

In writing, there are dark and mysterious secrets. What is so apparent, laid out starkly as black print on a field of white, actually serves only to mask the truth of what is taking place in the reader’s mind. Every passage, every phrase, even individual words absorbed by the reader, have been chosen and woven with a purpose by the writer. This is the surreptitious and seedy side of the writing world; the secret of writers.

Few are the avid readers who do not harbor a desire to write. They are familiar with the feeling of words weighing heavy as bound matter. They like the heft of a good novel; the slick, clean feel of a glossy magazine; the wall of information held up as the morning paper. They enjoy steeping in the smell of an old book, or the bitter tang of fresh ink, barely dry. They are warmed by the glow of the back light illuminating text on an electronic screen. No matter the source, they crave the dizzying effects provided by a swirl of words swept off a page and processed into mental images. 

 When someone mentions to an avid reader that they write, the response rarely varies. “You are so lucky! I’d love to write, but can never find the time.” Then they add, “And I don’t have the inspiration.”

The avid reader says this firmly believing writers are blessed with extra time and a direct line to a personal muse. Those are writers’ secrets: time and inspiration. Time is not found, it is made. It is not inspiration, but perspiration that gets the words down. 

Writers know tomorrow is a bad time to write. The only way words will proliferate is by planting them firmly on the paper, now. Tomorrow’s words will be weak. They will be soft and flabby with age, unable to support an idea, much less evoke an emotion or tickle a sense. Inspiration is only a brief flash of an idea, gone as quickly as a bolt of lightning. The writer is left to struggle with only the phantom image of the brilliant light, building something tangible from that which has no substance.

The avid reader sees only the final product. They evaluate only the net result. They feel, smell, taste and experience emotions as they read. They describe the writer as “gifted” for evoking the senses. They are compelled to follow the writer’s printed path, wherever it leads. They describe the writer as one who “grabs” them. Again, those are writers’ secrets. There are no gifts, no grabbing, only a game of sensual and emotional manipulation. 

Writers strive to be crafty. Writers want to be that boogey-man hand that shoots out of the dark, or around the blind corner, to snag the reader, shock them, make them aware. For a writer, it’s a game using words. It’s magic carried out with prosaic prestidigitation.

Writing is not a gift. People are born gifted. Writing is a craft. Good writers are taught to be crafty. (It is important to note here, however, that while good writing can be taught, great writing comes only from crafty, gifted writers.) This then, the crafted manipulation of the reader, is the true secret of the writer. The writer must make cold calculated decisions in how best to manipulate the reader during the practice of the craft. This applies to nonfiction as well as fiction writers. 

Often, what is said is not as important as how it is said. Like gourmet food, presentation can be everything. Laid out in dramatic scenes, even historical fact is less bland. Likewise, a complicated event with many players and events can be presented in summary so that a fuller appreciation is possible for the reader.

The writer must get the reader involved. The best way to do that is through an emotional attachment and sensual stimulation. Writers flirt with the reader, play with their emotions, using carefully developed similes and metaphors. Sights, sounds, smells and tactile experiences become the means of transport to carry the reader along. All the while, the writer evaluates what, which word or phrase, will best affect the reader to the writer’s design. 

Writers are crafty, manipulative people. No harm. What the reader doesn’t realize, won’t hurt them.

Shameless plug: If you would like to see how crafty and manipulative I can be, check out my e-books on Amazon.


  1. This is a great, no excuses post! Loved it! I am inspired to start writing right now! Hey, I have a bog post idea: you should do a tutorial on how you ended up with e-books on Amazon. Seriously. Would love to hear about that journey!
    Justin Knight- Writing Pad Dad
    Writing Pad Dad Blog

    1. Thanks, Justin. The trip to books on Amazon would be a blog all unto itself, and would be more of a "how-not-to-do" piece. The indie author aspect is on the slate, however. BTW, I'm nominating your blog, Writing Pad Dad, for a Liebster Award.