Monday, October 17, 2011

Word it Up

This Dilbert comic gave me a pretty good chuckle this morning because, in many ways, it describes my life for both good and bad.

There is much that can be accomplished with writing. At work right now we’re preparing the operational paperwork to open a new waste processing facility, so we’re deeply involved with words. We have to put bows on it all too – but we can’t just word things up willy-nilly because these documents will actually be read and used and revised and revised again as we all work to make them as perfect as they can be.

I’m doing the same with the novels I’m working on. The first drafts, it appears, are plot and character development laced liberally with spots where I word it up and put a bow on it. The editing process means to cull the wording up and to make sure the bows are all in the right place.

Readers, I have to remind myself, are astute individuals. They can tell immediately the difference between something that’s bee worded up with a bow slapped on it and something that’s been carefully crafted and edited. I’m learning as I get older that while the initial writing process might be the most satisfying, the ongoing editing process is the most necessary. Sometimes when we word things up and put bows on it, the wording and bows just get in the way of the central message. I can see that with “Considering How to Run,” and I know now – having put some emotional distance between the book and myself – that some of the bows I’ve got in the book need to be taken off. I know the ones – those that smack of any “modernity,” those that recall us from the fantasy world I’m trying to create to the real world in which I exist now. Those real-world things have got to be cut. And the novel won’t suffer for it.

Again, this may be why – I’m a slow learner, I know – that many editors advise would-be book writers to write two or three books before they actually get serious about asking someone to read and edit what they’ve written in a professional, potential-to-publish capacity. I’ve learned enough about writing that first novel to know what kinds of mistakes to avoid, and I’m sure I’ll discover new, fresh mistakes – and encounter some old friends – as I write the second and third (which are both underway right now, by the way). Maybe after three or four (or five or six) novels written, I’ll finally get to the point where I’ve written one that shows I’ve finally learned a thing or two – that I’m not just wording things up and putting a bow on it.

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