Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Get it Down or Labor Lovingly?


Blog 37

A recent conversation with my adult son triggered awareness of an evolution in my writing approach. My son, an actor, who is developing a screen play, seemed to be laboring to the point of immobility in his desire for conceptual and language precision.

My initial, almost reflexive, response was to “just write,” the idea being to get something down and see what follows. Believing that so much in writing is reparative eventually, my thought was (is) you can always repair it later. It’s called editing.

Following a deeper consideration of his struggle, it reoccurred to me that it is not uncommon for a writer to delay a start to a work until he / she can find the right feel for entry to the story they’ve imagined. I’ve read of instances where the delay lasted several years and included multiple re-starts. In my son’s case, the need to feel right, as he moves forward, may even be more necessary relative to the more regimented form of the screenplay.

All that said, for me, the question remains: When attempting to write a novel, do you aim to just get a sentence down hoping it will trigger the next (and the next) or do you labor lovingly over it at the risk of overloading it?

Until recent years, I worked so hard at sentences, I believe I tended to overwrite them. Now, I want to get the story out, down on paper, then, into the computer. At both stages of development, I can begin to refine as needed via the endless editing process, something I’ve come to enjoy more with time.

In retrospect, my earliest writing was so overwrought, so larded with vocabulary – an amateur’s honest, but fatal mistake – that it interfered with the reading. My opinion: Anything that interferes with the reading of a story, anything that makes the flow viscous, can slow, if not deaden, the story. Therefore, it needs to be stricken, any and all of it. Think Elmore Leonard.

The poetic line in writing may elude me in my pursuit of getting the story down, but I’d like to believe it’s in service to writing a good story. (Of course, what writer doesn’t?)

This evolved tendency is true for my novelistic attempts. For shorter works, I still labor much more intensely over the sentences, perhaps related to the need to convey a story in a more compact format. Regardless, it’s ultimately about the reader, isn’t it?

What are some of your thoughts about this? Is this my tempest in a teapot or do you find yourself landing on one side or the other – or somewhere in between?


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