Thursday, July 02, 2020

Knowing yourself

Rick’s post and Thomas’s post each got me thinking about the nitty-gritty, the hows and whys, of writing.

Hemingway said somewhere that one doesn’t become a better writer, only a better editor. Like most of what Hemingway said on the topic, I agree. For me, improvement has always been tied to knowing myself –– knowing my strengths and weaknesses and using that knowledge and self-awareness to evolve.

Character and dialogue are things I do best. Those aspects of writing fiction have always come easily. Plot, not so much. Plot I have to work at. I write in a Google document, and the margins are filled with notes and comments –– reminders about who knows what, who said what, who did what, and what needs to happen in the course of the story or book. Keeping track of the threads of the spider web has never been as easy.

And, as Rick mentioned, over-writing is always an issue. I think this is a common problem most of us battle. How much is too much? Is the line of dialogue clear? Do I need one more brushstroke here? I talk about this with my students often, telling them, Overwriting happens when you’re not confident in what you’ve conveyed. And I am quick to admit (to them and to you) that I’m as guilty as anyone.

All of which points us to the importance of revision and, as Hemingway would say, always working to become your own best editor.


As an aside, summer is off to a nice start. My reading list consists of Angie Thomas’s On the Come Up, William Kent Krueger’s A Tender Place, and I need to reread Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried to teach it in the fall. My oldest, Delaney, graduated from college (we held our own ceremony), and is moving to New York City to start her first job. She recruited a cheap painter...

No comments: