Recently I came across an excerpt from a book when it was posted to Twitter.
I've posted the excerpt below and it's followed by a short quiz.
Don't comment until AFTER you take the quiz ok?
And don't READ the other comments till you've posted yours, ok?
Get a pen/pencil and paper ready (you really need to write by hand for this.)
Here are photos of the two pages.
I should mention this is NOT a trick quiz. The pink highlighting is NOT significant. Just read the text.
Now, using the pen/pencil and paper, write down what your very first initial response.
Give yourself thirty seconds. What you want here is your first, visceral response. Don't think, write.
Don't read past here till you're done.
Are you sure?
As sure as you are that you're not a robot?
When you look at what you wrote on the piece of paper is it about how this writing made you feel?
Or is your response more of what we'll call an editorial one? Syntax or spelling errors?
There is no right or wrong answer here and I'm not going to ask you to tell me what you wrote.
I will say this: If your response was editorial or analytical, you may be too focused on what's correct instead of what's powerful in what you're reading. That can be a problem when you're editing or revising your work.
Sure you want to have correct syntax and spelling, but more important than that is you want to have writing that makes people feel things. Envy, lust, anger, fear, or this case an incredible feeling of something I can't really find words for. When I read "they are chanting Welcome Home" I felt a welling of emotion that left me in tears. I have no words for the feeling but it was real and it was powerful.
The reason I wrote this post was that when I published this on Facebook a couple days ago I was dumbfounded to find several comments with blistering attacks on the writing. It was as though the commenters didn't feel a thing. I was bewildered.
Then I remembered that when I get deep into editorial mode, I can lose all sight of the higher power of the book. I can lose sight of what it makes me feel as I try to make sure all the syntax is well-oiled and sentences are plugged in and the paragraphs lined up, ready to pull the page down the road.
That work has to be done, yes indeed it does, but if that's the ONLY way you look at text, you're missing the bigger picture. Good writing evokes powerful emotion. Good grammar evokes satisfaction. Know and respect their roles. They are not the same thing.
Now, have at it in the comments section.