Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Confined writing

Like Barbara, I’m also writing a Rapid Read novel for Orca Book Publishers in Victoria, BC. It’s proving to be a very interesting and valuable learning experience that I think is going have far-reaching effect on my overall writing.

For those of you who don’t know, the idea behind these books is that they’re novels for those with literacy challenges, either because they just don’t read well or because English is not their native tongue. The overarching mandate is “good stories well told”, but because of their nature they have to be written much differently than the sort of novel I usually write: simple language, simple sentence construction, no subplots, few or no flashbacks, a limited number of characters and no more than 20k words.

I soon fell into the habit of writing a chapter then going back next day to really looking over what I’ve written. It’s amazing how many times I’ve used a “big word” where a small one would suffice, and even though I’m focusing on simplified sentence structure, I’m still doing things that are more complicated than they need to be. Since I really enjoy the editing process, it’s no problem to shove things around, prune the dead wood and make everything simpler — and clearer.

And that’s the surprising thing. Maybe I’m building some good skills to make my writing overall better and more lucid. Maybe there are things that I can take from this little novella to my wider-ranging writing.

In the past hundred years, prose style has become much more stripped down and basic. You only need to look at a Forster novel to see how things have changed. I’m not saying that they’re better, just different.

There are things that I’m learning that I will use in my next full-length novel. In the meantime, Orchestrated Murder might be an interesting book for Type M folks to consider reading when it’s released in a year.

1 comment:

Donis Casey said...

This 'stripped down" philosophy can be applied to one's whole life. Thomas Merton wrote that he thought he lived a frugal life as a Catholic monk because he only had a bed and a bowl. Then he went to an Indian monastery and slept on the floor and ate off of a leaf. Poetry writing is also a good way to learn to say volumes with very few words.