Thursday, March 10, 2005

March 10 Part II


I wonder how many other writers layer their drafts?

I noticed something as I go back and reread the chapters of Ransagh that I typed. Each time I revisit (which is the preamble to “revise” for me), I go back with a different intention. For instance, last night I re-read specifically making notes on where I wanted to expand sensory details and information on the food. The food has become quite important.

As I’m pounding through the writing of the longhand first draft, I’m trying to get the conversations and situations parading through my head down on paper before I lose them. I don’t know all the structures of this world. If I stopped to figure everything out ahead of time (some writers call it “prewriting”), I lose my characters.

So, for me, I have to work from character first. Then I fix the problems in the situation. Then I solve chronological and logistical problems. Then I add in textural details. Then I rearrange things. Then I re-read Elements of Style and cut out the unnecessary/sloppy words.

Then I take a machete to it and cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, CUT!

I LOVE to cut my work. The more tightly it’s written, the happier that I am. There are many gloriously luxurious and expansive novels into which one can sink into like a featherbed – and yet, when I research the writing process behind them, I discover that, when the novel works, the author cut, cut, cut.

A young writer (in both age and experience) landed on one of the forums I frequent recently. He is in love with words, and most importantly, the words that come from HIM. He believes that simply because he loves words and uses the most complex structures and largest words he can, his writing is good. One of the other members on the forum accused him of masturbation. While the comparison is a bit harsh, there’s also truth in the comment. The work has to come before the writer’s ego. We exist to serve the work. The work does not exist to serve us. We are the Clergy of the Word, in a way. The Priests and Priestesses of Story.

Theatre evolved out of religious ritual. Bards told tales around campfires and oral history existed far before written history. It’s up to the writer to enhance the piece, not to stand in front of it and say “Look at ME! These are MY words!”

Once you say them or write them or put them out there, they are not JUST yours anymore, even if you retain the copyright. They become entities unto themselves. That’s why writers need to think before they write and not simply suffer from verbal diarrhea. There’s a time and place to spew, but it is an adjunct to what we do, not our main purpose.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this young writer was receptive to the comments he received (the masturbation comment was really the only harsh one – the other commenters tried to gently steer him towards a less narcissistic tone and a more professional and marketable style WITHOUT losing his tone). I don’t think he can yet understand that a writer can present his or her work with correct grammar and spelling while still retaining the personal voice and not selling out. I think this writer packed up his toys and went home, without taking the time to consider that maybe, just maybe, there might be grains of truth in the comments (for which he asked) and that he was gifted with useful information. He wanted to be told he was brilliant. When he didn’t get the response into which he attempted to manipulate us, he left.

I don’t do too well with manipulation. It tends to majorly piss me off.

Hopeful, these musings will be helpful to someone, and not merely verbal diarrhea on my part. Imodium Ink, anyone? :)

D.

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