Saturday, August 24, 2013

Halfway Through

Elmore Leonard, the novelist who recently died, once admitted something about his writing that shocked me to my core:   "I never know," he'd said, "what the story is about until I'm halfway through."

Wow! And all this time I thought I had a problem about this

The process of discovery, of seeking a path from the initial setup to the epiphany is one of the daunting joys of writing.  Was Leonard talking about where his tale was taking him or was he talking about discovering that the story had already been written in his mind and waited only to be typed into being?  Was his comment a case of the muse --a fickle creature that eludes our most ardent pursuit -- appearing to momentarily grant clarity, precision, and insight OR was it the aggregation of accumulating facts piling up in his mind to reach a fissionable mass?

In my own case I can only compose a story by mounting the menacing production monster and applying fingers to keyboard, sweating words onto the page, and toiling for hours to produce a block of type that might charitably be called a draft.  The production of pedestrian flashbacks, complicated action scenes, and boring exposition is dull and unimaginative until I somehow strike a seam of narrative gold. This discovery provides a thrill like no other, second only to finding that absolutely perfect denouement to close the tale. But my muse provides such grace rarely and leaves me alone to deal with the toil of editing, revising, and rewriting to make the story appear as if it had been produced effortlessly.

So, yes!  I guess that I too occasionally have had that moment of discovery "halfway through."


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