Saturday, April 24, 2010

Being a bulldog can be a good thing

I'm currently reading South of Broad by Pat Conroy.  Like all his fans I'm sure, I find his use of language to be rich and beautifully turned.  Another of my favorite authors is Lee Child.  Because Mr. Child writes thrillers, his style is completely different from Mr. Conroy's, but his own prose creates the tone for his work with just as much impact.

If these and others simply sit down and the words flow fully polished onto the page, then I am certainly lost as a writer.  When I started Snowstorm, I never would have done it, as they say, I'd known then what I know now.  Instead, I blissfully trusted in a decent vocabulary and a story I wanted to tell.  I think I was slogging through my third rewrite when it finally dawned on me that every sentence mattered.  I thought seriously about "accidentally" erasing the whole manuscript. I mean, who could blame me if I didn't start over, right?  My husband would understand if I never finished, after countless hours pounding a keyboard while a dozen other things went undone.  Wouldn't he?  No.  He wouldn't. 

So, I used my left hand to pry my right away from the "delete" button, sat back, and eyed the screen with more than a little malice.  Then it got worse.  What if, I thought with horror, what if every word mattered?  This isn't poetry, after all.  Even as I had the thought, I remembered noticing the metaphors, similes, imagery, alliteration, and all the other techniques used so gracefully in novels I'd read.  Lee Child used in one of his books: "as cool as the other side of the pillow," and conjured up the feeling perfect for that point in the story.  As I read South of Broad, I stop occasionally to jot down things like the "Age of Alas" and "in the country of dreams."  Poetry in its way.

Alone in front of the computer keyboard, I folded my arms over my chest and drew on my inner bulldog.  I bet I even growled a little, but I finally got over it.  Finally I understood this would be hard work - a job - a craft.  I thought I'd already figured that out, but somehow I didn't believe it.

Now, as I contemplate Snowstorm being published next year, I know the day if quickly approaching when my editor at Echelon Press is going to call about " a few changes."  This time, though, I almost welcome the process, because every word I improve will make the book better, and that's what's important to me.  I even think I can do it without chewing any furniture.

1 comment:

Angie Eaton said...

Oh Connie, I am so happy (from one human being to another, one woman to another, and one "bulldog" to another) that you tackled the challenge that some days may have seemed bigger than you and others seemed a thrill you couldn't resist attempting! You are right that every word does matter, but I don't believe every word is either right or wrong. It is a process, for both you and the reader to go through. I have never read a writing from someone else that didn't leave a change in me in some way, because every word left me challenged to think it through and find my place in the relationship with that idea or position or view, making me, the reader, more in tuned with who and what I am. I imagine that the writer is or has gone through the same process in the creating and editing of their work. I find that process something worthy of working through and finishing (published or not). I am also glad that you feel your spouce would want you to finish becasue that really says he believes in you, your abilities, and your message. WOW! What a gift! In the end, some may or may not like/enjoy your work for what ever reason, but if you have made it what YOU want it to be for the purpose and message you have to share, you have done a great thing! Now, stay far away from the keyboard when your hands want to go to the delete button, and keep going! I am already looking forward to your next blog.....8-)