Friday, March 2, 2012

Update: Revisions, AWP, Books, and Remembering Your Nose

Happy Friday!

I'm looking forward to the weekend. The AWP (Association of Writers Programs) conference is going on in Chicago through Sunday. Professors, students, and alumni of MFA writing programs are flocking to the city to mix and mingle. There are a slew of readings happening in bookstores, coffee shops, and bars. I went to a poetry reading on Wednesday night. To be honest, poetry is not my forte, but I still enjoyed being around other writers. I'm planning to go a fiction reading sometime this weekend. Since we spend so much of our time alone staring at a screen, it's nice to meet other pale, socially awkward writers in person. Their schedule can be found here.

I've also been revising every single day this week. I'm not hitting my chapter-per-day goal, but I'm still proud of myself for keeping up this daily pace. I thought I would dread revisions, but I quite enjoy having a base to go off of.

In my descriptions, I've been adding more sensory images, especially smell. We take smell for granted, opting to use visual and tactile description. But people have a strong attachment to their sense of smell. You can evoke a feeling or memory or setting quickly and effectively with sense of smell. You see, the sense of smell is our only sense that's connected directly to our brain, making them more vivid. The sensations don't have to be transmitted and translated like they do with the other four senses. That's why when I smell Cool Water on a guy, I'm instantly taken back to 7th grade sitting in front of this kid Jason who poured it on. Whereas if I see an old picture of him, it would take a little more thinking to picture the classroom. Try to intersperse some olfactory descriptions into your WIP. If you have a minor character, maybe you don't want to spend time describing his/her appearance, giving your reader yet another person to remember. Instead, describe how they smell and distringuish said character immediately.

In book news, I lent my copy of Small Town Sinners to a friend who's a youth minister. She loved it! She really appreciated how the protagonist questions her faith, how organic her development felt, and how the book doesn't put down religion. She's going to recommend it to her kids. I love when people love books I recommend. It's like a job well done...I'm currently reading Stephen McCauley's The Object of My Affection. Yes, I'm breaking my rule about reading the book after seeing the movie. And yes, I keep picturing Jennifer Aniston as the main character, even though in the book she is very different and not as glamourous. But I am enjoying the novel, especially its datedness. (It was written in 1985) The main characters are debating whether to invest in an answering machine. At least it's not a pay phone.

 How is your writing coming along? Any fun weekend plans?


  1. I forget sometimes to use the sense of smell in my books. I did describe my athletic protagonist once as smelling like a cross between fragrant sandalwood and leather with a hint of a floral bouquet. I don't know if it worked though. No one ever commented on it.

  2. I only use sensory details if they evoke some very strong emotional longings or feelings. Just like any setting detail, it means nothing to the reader if it means nothing personally to the character. Good post!

  3. *waves* Hi, Phil!

    Smell is a fun one to write. Choosing scents that are strong that everyone can relate to brings the reader into your story that much more.

  4. I use sensory details much like how the 2nd commenter has stated.

    As for writing, I'm trying to get back into my current writing project, which I had put on the back burner while I was busy doing the submission thing with my last novel.

    Should be a fascinating weekend.

  5. Hey Phil! It was groovy meeting you the other night. Love your blog. You're so right--smell is totally overlooked as a tool for description. And I totally get what you mean about Cool Water! For me, it's Bath & Body Works Tropical Kiwi Body Glitter (ew, I know). I smell it and it's like being 12 and awkward again.

  6. OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION was such a cute movie, Love me some lovely romcoms no matter what hater fanboys say ;)

  7. OMG I didnt know I made it into one of your blogs!! :)

    1. First I write a book about you, then a blog :)