Thursday, July 16, 2015

Right to the Point

Donis here. My latest book, All Men Fear Me, will not hit the shelves until November. But since one can't afford to let the grass grow under one's feet, I’ve started working on the first draft of a new novel. It will be the ninth book in my Alafair Tucker series. At the moment the extremely original working title is Nine. I’m planning on coming up with a perfect title later. Usually I wait until one of the characters says something pithy and to the point, at which moment I say to myself, “Hmm, that would be a good title.”

I’m always trying to find the perfect word to convey the subtle shade of meaning that I want, both in my titles and in my manuscripts. My first drafts are filled with blank spaces, which I leave because even though I can think of one hundred nouns/verbs/adjectives/adverbs that would be adequate in that place, I know the Absolutely Perfect Word exists, and I can’t quite come up with it. However, I can’t afford to spend fifteen minutes wracking my brain for it, so I leave a blank and torture myself with it on the rewrites. Sometimes I do end up having to use one of those one hundred almost-right words, but when I do, I feel a sense of abject failure.

Trying to convey some subtle meaning is only one reason why I strive to find the perfect word. Sometimes the way the sentence sounds, the poetry of it, only works with a particular combination of words. I have been know to write a narrative in the voice of one character, and then decide later that it would be better to have a different character experience the event and tell us about it. Changing the point of view necessitated a major change in language, even though the gist of the scene was the same.

I heard a Famous Author say that one of the best things he ever did to improve his prose style and technique was to learn to write poetry. He thought that there is nothing like poetry to teach a writer how to use the fewest possible words to make the biggest possible impact on the reader.

The amazing thing is that once you have written a few poems and learned how to fit your idea into the shortest possible form, your long-form style automatically changes without your having to even think about it. Your prose gains a vigor that it didn’t have before, because its power is no longer dissipated in a miasma of unnecessary words.*

I read that if you ask an author why he writes, the better and probably more successful writers will answer that it’s because they love language. I think that learning how to use language is like learning to play of a piano. Language is a writer’s instrument, and if she doesn’t practice, study, experiment, and play with it, she might end up writing “Chopsticks” instead of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.
*Case in point …a miasma of unnecessary words.

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