More snow may be on the way but I’m thinking of spring.
To escape endless winter, and to refuel my own inner writer, I took a workshop this past January in Key West from renowned poet and wordsmith, Billy Collins.
“Your poem doesn’t end where you think it ends,” he told us, “but when your reader stops reading.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Though Billy Collins was talking about writing poetry, his statement holds true for just about any form of writing, whether it’s an article, short story, picture book, YA novel, or epic historical fiction. No matter what you think you may have written, if the reader loses interest and stops reading, you’ve lost them. It’s over.
While in the tropics, I also went fishing with my husband and friends–and a guide–in the shallow bays around Key West. (Of course, Hemingway once spent lots of time fishing there, too.) For hours, fish nibbled at my hook, baited with bits of shrimp or squid. But beyond baiting, there’s that important next step. When the fish actually showed up–in this case, mostly gray snapper–it was my job to hold their interest.
To catch a fish, not unlike writing, you have to perform magic. You’re creating the illusion of something alive and wiggling. You must keep the fish interested by making something happen–and it’s all in the wrist action. To my surprise that day, I caught enough gray snapper to contribute to our fish fry that evening.
Like a fish on a line, there’s nothing more satisfying than reeling readers in and holding their interest to the very last word, or words: “the end.”