Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Iceberg Principal

...I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg. It is the part that doesn't show. If a writer omits something because he does not know it then there is a hole in the story.
~ Ernest Hemingway



How can we give our writing power?


Ken Macrorie provides nine strategies used by good writers for more powerful writing:
1. They do not waste words.

2. They speak in an authentic voice.

3. They put the reader there, make him believe.


4. They cause things to happen for the reader as they happened for the writer (or narrator).


5. They create oppositions which pay off in surprise.


6. They build.


7. They ask something of the reader.


8. They reward the reader with meaning.


9. They present ideas, actions, or details that are solid, like an apple with its core and flesh, and however small or momentary, are rounded and complete in themselves.

In addition, he encourages (and we all know this) strong metaphors, adjectives, full verbs, repetition, powerful rhythms and surprise.

Most good writing is: clear, vigorous, honest, alive, sensuous, appropriate, unsentimental, rhythmic, without pretension, fresh, metaphorical, evocative in sound, economical, authoritative, surprising, memorable, and light.

And there you have it. UGH! This writing business is nothing if not hard work. But that's why we love it, right?!

How do you make your writing more powerful?

P.S. Les Edgerton, the author of Hooked, stopped by and left us his blog address. Go follow him! (http://lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/)

38 comments:

GunDiva said...

I really work hard on my fiction, which really is a struggle. I've got stories I want to tell, but getting it "right" is exceedingly difficult.

My creative non-fiction, on the other hand, just seems to work. A word adjustment here and there and BLAM! it's something I'm happy with.

Now if I could just merge the two, I might be on to something.

laurel said...

I'm always on the hunt for fresh an original images, especially ones that engage all the senses. And in revision, I try to craft the language to be more rhythmic and make use of poetic sound devices like onomatapoeia and alliteration, especially assonance (in which the innner vowel sounds repeat--subtle but lovely).

TerryLynnJohnson said...

oooh, great words!!
I'm still learning how to make my own writing more powerful, but I do enjoy reading great similies. Ones that make me smile and nod with how clever they are. (ie. there's a lot of those in Dead-Tossed Waves)

Kasie West said...

I love the iceberg principle. It's oh so true. I try to use it. Thanks for the tips to strengthen writing. Very helpful.

Patti said...

I'd never heard of the iceberg principle, but so true.

T. Anne said...

OOh great post. i need to dig deeper in my WIP and see what's floating around down there.

Tere Kirkland said...

This is so true. There's so much going on behind the scenes of my novels, it's hard for even me to keep track of.

I do need to be more clear and vigorous with my writing, as well as authoritative. Good to remember!

Southern Princess said...

word selection...that is where I sometimes struggle. Making sure the words really convey what I would want to be reading.

Right now I am actually working on some of the final scenes. Trying not to give too much or to give too little. In my mind they play like a movie - I want that for my reader. I want them to read a passage, close their eyes & see it.

thanks for, as usual, a wonderful post!

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Jennie Englund said...

I love how you switch up your font colors. It's fun and happy.

So nice that HOOKED stopped by!!!

About more powerful writing: I try to beef up the details. Like what the character is drinking, how she holds the cup, how she walks, how far up (or down) the zipper of her hoodie is.

It's Big Picture I struggle with. That, and intro. right now.

Karen Lange said...

Great stuff! Thanks for sharing it. :)

Bethany Mattingly said...

I missed your posts so much! I'm working on making the story more authentic and giving it a faster plot.

Kayeleen said...

I've found that using the simple words is sometimes best. I used to think that I would constantly be using my thesaurus, but I really don't. If it doesn't come easily to my mind, someone else will misunderstand what I'm trying to say or have to look up the words. Not very strong writing, that.

E. Elle said...

Authenticity is really important to me. I think that's one of the things I focus on most when it comes to making my writing powerful.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I hate Hemingway's books, but I love his quotes. I'm not sure what that says.

My first drafts are sooooo wordy- I end up spending multiple revisions paring them down. But it helps- a reader can reach their own conclusions without me holding their hand.

K. Harrington said...

I love this metaphor!

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, man, I'm not sure I do! That's the problem, right? Always something more to strive for. Le sigh.

Carolyn V. said...

I love the iceberg principle! Very insightful. Plus Ken's strategies...great. Thanks Shannon! =)

Patti Lacy said...

All of the ways you listed, Shannon, then a sharpened knife that hacks EVERY unnecessary word.

GREAT post.


P

Kimberly Franklin said...

That's a great question. But also one I don't have an answer for. : (

And writing is definitely hard work, but I still love it!

Oh and great iceberg picture. They are so amazing to me. : )

Bane of Anubis said...

Great info, though I think Mr. H sometimes left a little too much underwater :).

Tamika: said...

Love the picture. Now if only I could be as thorough with my writing. I think I take for granted that the reader is getting everything that I know. But it's never wise to assume. People prefer clean, concise prose that speaks volumes.

Jackee said...

Ooh, great insight. No unnecessary words is one that I live by when revising. Now to incorporate the rest...

Cheree said...

Who doesn't love the iceburg principle? I guess choosing the right words is a key component of making the writing more powerful, and the hard point for me is selecting those powerful words.

Christi Goddard said...

I give my writing Viagra to give it more power.

Jill Kemerer said...

My first drafts feature bland verbs and repetitious action beats. Revisions are what make my writing powerful!

Jemi Fraser said...

I need to slash excess words to make my writing stronger. I tend to repeat myself in different ways - um, kinda like I just did :)

Shelley Sly said...

Excellent post. Writing IS hard work... anyone who thinks you can just sit down, type something out, and then be finished for good just doesn't get it. All of the time we take to revise makes our work stronger.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I'm going to have this list right by my manuscript when I revise and see which elements I need to strengthen.
Thanks Shannon and thanks for the link to Hooked too! :-)

Mary Aalgaard said...

I think it is so great the Les Edgerton commented on your blog yesterday! Seems like we need to keep in mind, description without getting wordy.

Susan Fields said...

I saw that Les Edgerton commented on your last post - so cool! And I'm totally going to check that book out on my next trip to the bookstore (probably tomorrow).

I think I make my writing more powerful by getting rid of unnecessary words. When I write my first draft, I let myself be as wordy as I want to be. Then in my second draft I try to cut out the extraneous words, and the manuscript always reads so much better without them.

Sharon Mayhew said...

Wonderful post, Shannon! All of your points are valid. As a reader, I want to see pictures in my mind as I'm reading...I aspire to write that way. :)

Lisa and Laura said...

Fabulous reminders...I love them all. I really try to close my eyes and imagine the entire scene playing out and then I try to write it. Hopefully I make it more powerful...

Erica said...

Great post! And fabulous quote - what a cool way to look at things ;o) Thanks for sharing it with us!

Heather said...

Excellent advice! As for me, I follow much of this but I also write from the heart but edit with the head ;)

Terresa said...

I'm all about voice, but I think editing is a very good place to focus, too. (not wasting words)

Fabulous post, as always, Shannon!

Lydia Kang said...

Hi, newbie to your blog. I really enjoyed the post, it really crystallized a lot of what I try to acheive in writing. Thanks!

Christina Farley said...

This is such a good post. I really think each word is so powerful or can be at least.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wonderful image! Great post!

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