Chuck Wendig’s New Book

I just finished Chuck Wendig’s new book, Zeroes. It was fine! But more than that, I don’t really feel qualified to say. I read a lot differently when I’m writing than I do when I’m not, so I can’t say whether you, as a reader, might  like it. I, as a writer, really did. One thing he does that I want to think hard about for my next draft, is his specificity. I think that I tend to gloss over the details that I don’t think are that important in a story, because I hate when unimportant things are given too much attention.

I don’t have Wendig’s book in front of me, but let’s say that we’re writing a story about a guy who goes to the store to get some orange juice and, on the way, he gets abducted by aliens. Let’s say that the least important element in the story is the car he takes.

The kind of writing I don’t like might go something like “He gently eased his Levi-encased buttocks onto the leathery seat of the musty old El Camino, the color of sunsets or fresh, coppery menstrual blood, and rested his cracked hands on the ancient wheel. The car smelled of elderberries, freshly picked by young virgins on a cool, Spring morning.”

A lot of my writing goes like this: “He got in his car and he drove toward the store.”

But a Chuck Wendig-ish sentence goes something like “He got into his rusty, old El Camino and headed up the street to the IGA.”

You don’t spend too much time reading about things that aren’t important, but you spend enough time on them to get a taste of something you otherwise wouldn’t get. You can see how “he got into his new Lexus and headed up the street to the Whole Foods” changes the whole flavor of the sentence, implies a hundred different things about this “him” than the other “him,” none of which you can even begin to guess about my “him.”

I’m not terrible at that kind of specificity, but I’ve been hip-deep in this novel long enough to know that I’m not great at it. Watching someone just nail it sentence after sentence after sentence makes my inadequacies really stand out to me.