Friday, January 23, 2015

Lurching from the Head of Zeus

Readers like the intimacy of a story being told so well that they are not conscious of the act of reading but are instead immersed in the world of the writer's imagination.  The illusion of effortlessness that comes from a well made story results from an ease with which the words flow so smoothly. It is the imaginative development of plot and characters that can lead a reader to imagine that the story was created as it reads, each phrase or scene leading inevitably to the next.

It is all illusion.  Seldom does a story spring as Athena, fully formed and perfect in all aspects, from my writer's brain.   Instead the ideas lurch out in small, imperfect increments; a drop of character here, a drip of plot there, and in between a desolate wasteland waiting to be filled from the wellspring of my  imagination.  Instead of said imagination being a crystal spring of knowledge from which I could draw the story elements it is a murky puddle that has nothing to do with the (potentially) great idea that appeared more like  a fetid turd in rising in a cesspool than a glorious pearl of wisdom.

Usually, undaunted by previous attempts to ignore these formless lumps, I bungle on, throwing down a sentence here, dotting the pages with endless TBD's, and rattling on as if I was pursuing some grant plan but in fact simply writing so I don't have to think about where it is going.

Somewhere along the line the sheer mass of the draft generates enough heat that a structure begins to manifest. This event strikes fear in my lazy heart because I know with certainty that pounding this draft into salable shape is going to take a lot of hard work.

That captivating opening line, that brilliant scene, and wise denouement are creatures of hard work crafted from endless revisions of poorly structured narrative and inelegantly presented dialogues. Mu first drafts are always crude approximations of what is to come.  The second draft might improve the plot or characters, or pump up the narrative or dialogue. A third, fourth or umpty-ninth draft might, just might, be worthy of submission.

It is struggling through, finding the true path, and creating something worthy that all the struggles, self doubt, and worries slide away.  The final version is a glorious creation.

That is, after just one little change......


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