Saturday, January 09, 2010

“As far as how much you are putting into this story, you already wrote the my limited knowledge that is the hard part.....editing is the last road of the journey.”

Thought-provoking words from one of my strongest cheerleaders, my father, in response to my musings yesterday about the relative ease thus far of the long-anticipated rewriting. How does one explain the writing process to someone who has never experienced its highs and lows, its joys and frustrations? I’m going to make the effort, as much for my benefit as his. The unexamined life and all…

Contrary to his contention, telling (writing) a story is the easy part, relatively speaking. We all have stories in us that we love to share. Putting them down on paper requires the commitment to see them through from start to finish. The manuscript currently under construction was written in a month-long marathon. Not recommended as a practice, at least in my estimation, but the exercise had a purpose. The daily word count required to meet the deadline required me to turn off the internal editor that often impedes that initial process. Instead of fretting over the exact word choice or the most finely-tuned phrase, I was able to push through and construct a story arc, adding characters and settings, and ending up with a complete story with a start and an end. My apologies to the post-modernists who don’t believe such constructions are necessary. I don’t care for their creations any more than they would care for mine.

So, after the bare bones of the story are down on paper, the much more difficult process of rewriting and editing begins…if an author wants the story to be worth reading. That is the stage at which I find myself with this current novel. The characters are there; the plot begins, develops, climaxes, and ends (sort of). But it is rough, very rough, and inconsistent and jagged and deadly dull in parts. I need to smooth out those rough edges, tie up loose ends, bring dates and timelines and descriptions into a semblance of order and, with any luck, along the way add enough interest and tension and description and maybe a bit of humor to keep a reader sufficiently involved to stick with me until the end.

Is rewriting the easy part, as Dad suggests? Not really. But neither is the initial story line, if I am completely honest with myself and with my readers. It is dreadfully easy to get lost in a maze of minutiae that is incoherent and bland, with no plot to speak of and nothing to compel a reader to turn the page. Unfortunately, books like that get published – I’ve read them! My goal is to create something that Dad, and maybe someone with no sentimental attachment, will actually enjoy reading and, as any good author hopes, make them want to open the book and start reading again after savoring the last page.

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