Thursday, April 19, 2018

Keeping Up With the Times

I’ve started a new novel and am slogging along in the jungles of the first draft. When I’m trying to get a first draft to look like something and having a tough time of it (which is always), I often wonder why I put myself through it. But then if I didn’t have a first draft I wouldn’t have anything to revise. I much prefer doing revisions to writing the first draft of a novel. In my metaphorical little world, writing the first draft is a coarse, rough, sweaty process. You slap that gesso on the wall by the bucket load and slather on the background paint. It’s messy and hard and, for me, a daily act of will to accomplish. But rewriting takes skill. It requires a true eye, real delicacy and finesse to shape that big old expanse of plaster into a work of art.

With rewrites, you get to see the story change shape and, if you’re lucky and skilled enough, grow into something beautiful. Of course, there are those horrible moments when you realize that you’re going to have to lose a scene that you really liked, or that word of which you are so enamored because it no longer fits the picture. I think perhaps that’s when you know you’re a real writer, when you can cut good stuff for the greater good of the story.

I must comment about Barbara's post, below, about how a writer faces the end of her book. I totally relate to her fear of not being able to pull it off. It's really horrible to know exactly how you want it to come off and not be sure you have the chops to do it. I never quite achieve the brilliant, knock-your-socks-off triumph that I had envisioned, but I'm usually pleased enough in the end. I often don't know exactly how it's going to end, myself, until it does. Once I do finish a book, I love to go back over it and fiddle with it, changing a word here, a sentence there, like polishing a new-made piece of furniture. Pulling off a great ending requires not only skill, but insight and not a little luck!

And one last word about computers (see Rick’s cautionary entry, April 17, below). I’m about twenty years behind the times when it comes to technology. I wonder if the reason isn't because I have no kids to shame me into keeping up with the times. For those of us who attained majority before the advent of the computer age, it just ain’t fair. We aren’t stupid. But we grew up in a world that required a whole other set of skills.

I hate to sound like an old curmudgeon who goes on about how she used to live in a shoebox in the middle of the road and eat mud for supper when she was a child, but that’s not going to stop me. I write a historical series, but I don’t think the past was better than the present.  Far from it.  I’m not nostalgic for the past. I don’t rue the fact that the world is changing. That’s the way it is. But it does seem that I hardly recognize the planet I grew up on any more. I don’t value the things that most of society seems to value.

I expect this happens to everyone, and has since the beginning of time. I wonder sometimes about those souls who manage to live to be 100 or 110. How must they feel about the fact that everyone else who understood their world has entered the choir eternal? How must they feel when the very world they knew how to live in is gone, when they find themselves on what amounts to a different planet, and they are the only ones of their species left in existence?

Hmm, there’s a plot in there somewhere. And now I beg to be excused so that I can go back up all my work.

No comments: