Try using single syllable words to focus your writing. It can make it stronger and more dynamic.

Try using single syllable words to focus your writing. It can make it stronger and more dynamic.

My first Write-O-Rama workshop was “Pare It Down” with Anne Leigh Parrish. A workshop to get us to write simply and therefore strongly. Think Hemingway. Not one of my favorites. Not as pathetically macho as Mailer, but too focused so-called “masculine” values for me.

The idea was to choose strong words;  words of one syllable. If we couldn’t write with monosyllables, we were to go back and edit replacing polysyllabic words with monosyllabic ones.

Exercise: Pretend to write a letter using words of only one syllable.

Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Heidi,

Thank you. You gave me the this chance to go to this class to write. I find I am sparked and fired up by the aura and the dare to write short and clean. You are a great and true friend. Who would have thought that such a strong link could be forged by chance on the Net.

On my first draft of this exercise, I find it hard to use one syllable words. I do not think in one syllable words. I try to write like Hemingway. It is cool and gray this day. The clock on the wall ticks, ticks, ticks. A woman at the table coughs and clears her throat. A plane flies in the sky while a car drives by. You are used to these sounds. I am not now. I do not live in the city now. I can not block them. This is a good test.

I must decide which task to work on for the May trip. I want to work on my book but I want it to be good and there is not much time. My tech thought would be fast and I would have more time to hone it. What do you think is best?

Have I told you how proud I am of your work and grit? You are a spur to me. I get a lift each time you write to tell me of your feats and acts. Bless you! I will now have to use your strength to rein in my glut so I can meet you in May at the class.

This will be a short note since I am stuck with such short words. I do not think in short words. I was taught to use all my words and to learn more words. I respect writing of short words and lines, but I like a mix of words better. You can not get a book like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time with just short words even though you must use very few long words.

It’s peaceful with everyone working quietly — except me. I am very conscious of the key clicks as I work on my MacBook Pro over here in the corner. I appear to be the only person who brought a notebook computer to work on. Some didn’t even bring a pen and paper!

There are 2 men and 9 women in this class. I think that may be a consistent ratio, although I suspect things like the zine, graphic novel and performance workshops may have a higher male ratio. I considered going to the workshop on Diary Comics, but I think I’ll keep focused on prose. (Although I have a smashing idea for a non-fiction training guide done as a graphic novel…).

The exercise was a lot of fun and very stimulating. I, obviously, can’t do it all the time, but I’m now more conscientious about paring down some of my writing.

My 1st choice for second period was overflowing. So continuing the medieval signs and portents theme of my day, I’m off to the Jack Kerouac class — Memory Babe by Deborah Woodard.

Given my inability to actual finish On the Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) the three times I’ve tried it, this is an interesting departure for me. Definitely pushing out of my comfort zone. Check out the next post.

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