Wednesday, February 17, 2010


“How do I know what I think until I see what I say.” E.M. Forster once said.

Right. I’ve got to see it. Sometimes I have an idea, occasionally. Most of them aren’t very good but every once in a while I’ll get one I like. But the idea is always out of focus. The way for me to get it into focus is to write. I don’t know what the thought is, how it fits beside other thoughts, until the act of writing allows me to try to make sense of it.

When we’re in the final stages of a manuscript we need to be analytical but at first we have to get words, lots of words, on paper. So for me the drafting stage (those usually three misshapen and embarrassing attempts at a true draft) should rely on intuition more. I don’t mean that you don’t worry, think, consider, struggle with choices, use all the skills you have, but that you do your best to get to that altered state writing requires and BE THERE in the manuscript. What happens should flow from your experiencing the world through your characters, a more sensual than intellectual experience. Again, be there in the scene and your being there will help you know what to put in and what to leave out and where to go with the story.

Probably as you revise the manuscript, after drafting, you’ll need to be more analytical about the story. But you will still need to enter that altered state in places and BE THERE in order to make the scenes work once you’ve decided they belong. So these revisions, however many they are (I remember reading an interview with Hemingway where he said he rewrote the ending of one of his novels thirty times), will be some combination of analysis in both big picture and details and working locally in that altered, intuitive state. If you’re like me, you’ll probably rewrite certain parts five or ten times and others only a few. At any rate, you’ll go over the whole manuscript many, many times for language etc..

When you’re doing the final runs, that’s when you need to be analytical. You need to rely more on assessment rather than intuition though you’ll still, no doubt, be fiddling with the language. I always am. Making good sentences is a burden and joy.

Or so I think today.

No comments: