Saturday, March 12, 2011

Okay, it's not brain surgery

Writing is juggling many things at once and not thinking about any of them while you’re in the act of writing. There are just so many areas of concern: voice, character, plot, setting, language, and on and on. If we think about them while we’re writing, there’s a good chance we’ll freeze up or go into a kind of stiff, forced writing, or maybe make the wrong choices. And the wrong choices can be deadly in a novel. The wrong choices can lead you to other wrong choices and then you’re halfway through the novel and you’re thinking, HOW THE HE** DID I GET HERE? WHAT AM I DOING HERE? THIS ISN’T MY BEAUTIFUL NOVEL. THESE AREN’T MY BEAUTIFUL CHARACTERS (and before you know it you’re in a Talking Heads song—sorry, off topic). It’s not enough to write well. I’ve said that before, but it’s something worth saying again and again. A lot of people write well. A lot of people turn out good sentences. We have to do a lot of things at once to make the right choices or be able to go back in revision and evaluate your manuscript and figure out how to make the wrong choices right.

Writing a novel is a very complex act. Okay, it’s not brain surgery, but it’s difficult. I do think being aware of the many aspects can help a writer focus on a manuscript’s weaknesses in revision and avoid getting stuck on focusing too much on just one aspect. For example, and I have to admit I’m guilty of this myself sometimes, if your novel has serious structural problems rewriting and rewriting the first sentence 2000 times isn’t going to help. You have to look beyond the sentence and try to figure out the structural problem. Anyway, being open to changes in revision is a big step toward improvement of a manuscript.

4 comments:

blueeyedadri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blueeyedadri said...

Once you fix the rest of your plot issues and revisions, I usually find that first sentence comes easily.

Funny, huh?

After I spent 2,000 runs at the first line, I learned, the trick is not to start at the beginning.

brian yansky said...

So true. Well put.

anton said...

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