I just finished putting Renewal 5 up, and my new friend, Elizabeth, pointed out some pretty obvious errors. Thanks, Liz! I fixed the really glaring problems and put it up again. It’s tremendously nice to have a wife who is a great editor and spotter of my mistakes, but I’m also finding it’s great to have others looking as well. I’ll just try to keep it between the fenceposts.
Putting one word after another is not so hard. If the goal is to make sense, it gets a little harder, but still not so bad. All I have to do is avoid any attempt at creating poetry, and the odds are good that I can get my point across. Beyond that, writing quickly explodes into an infinite set of questions about balance and compromise. Would I like to describe a particular minute aspect of a character’s habits? Yes. Well, does it make sense to do so? And if it does, when and how? Was the character interesting in the first place? Why? Is this character too lucky to be real, or is this character too burdened by cliche to make a dent in the reader’s heart? Then come all the problems of viewpoint. If I chose this character to carry the story, did I back myself into a corner in which I’ll miss important parts of the plot. Sometimes, that’s a good method to limit what the reader knows, and sometimes it’s just a good way to hamstring the tale. How can I tell the difference? And on and on…
I come from a family tradition of good verbal storytellers. There have been uncles who could capture a backyard full of sugar-injected seven-year-olds and hold them in place with a good yarn. I’m sure if I could go back and analyze those stories, I would discover an innate gift for answering all the questions of good storytelling on the fly. I, unfortunately, did not inherit that gift. At least I know it. I have other relatives who have recognized the family penchant for storytelling, and then failed to notice that they do not have it. Those unfortunate souls can literally bore their victims to the point of a decision that may involve setting a building on fire to escape the droning verbal onslaught, and if they happen to die in the process, well… That might be ok too.
At this point in the game, I’m just beginning to understand these questions of the larger structure of writing. I think can conscientiously look at some of it and pull reasonably appropriate choices from the swirl of gray possibility. I suspect, however, that most good writers have found even larger frameworks for making their decisions, and have practiced it until they no longer have to work at the choices. Hopefully, I’m heading in that direction, but for now, I just need to be content with one big gray area.
In a word: Excellent.
I spent the longest time, writing along without any feedback, and as I look back through all of it, I can see the mistake. Heck, I even knew it was a mistake at the time. Unfortunately, writing cannot help but be deeply personal, and it’s hard to throw your words out for people to read. In the case of someone whose opinion really matters, such as my wife, Sharon, it’s even harder. After couple of years of writing, trying to sell that writing through the traditional route, and failing, I turned over a new leaf.
I now ignore the fact that most of what I write is not “her thing.” I ignore the fact that she could, at any time, whack my dreams with a giant sledge hammer. I even ignore the fact that she may not like what my writing reveals about me. I just hand it all to her, and bug her until she reads it.
Being the detail oriented one of this lovely pairing, she rapidly went from a check reader to a full fledged editor. She misses nothing. If it confuses her, it’s wrong. If I attempt to wax all poetic, it usually means that the fancy phrasing is running roughshod over the clarity, and she points it out with a minimum of fuss. It works great, and I am grateful.
Thank you, Sharon. Hopefully, someday I’ll write something in you would read on your own. Until then, I’ll continue to be difficult.
Renewal started out as almost anything except what it has become. I know the characters, and I know where they’re going, but I don’t always know how they’re going to get there. In this installment, we discover what the state government of Tennessee’s future requires in order to do its job. It’s far worse than the red tape of today.
Part 3 of the Renewal story is up on Amazon. In 2049, Terry is getting rapidly pulled into a much more complex situation than he ever expected. For reasons he doesn’t really see, he is being given a great big shove into the thick of it. Back in 2012, the Carter family is dealing with the new reality of the Breakdown with very little information about the world at large. If you look closely, you might even find some romance scattered about. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…