Sunday, October 15, 2006

It's been a while since I've written a blog entry. No reason for this, just lazy I guess. I've been editing, still editing. I've also been reading a lot, both fiction as well as books on writing. I'm learning, and the more I learn, the more I realize how far I still have to go in my writing.

I have the fundamental skills, I believe, to be a good writer, but these skills need more polish. I read my manuscript now, and think "How did I not see these flaws before? This is the twelve thousandth time I've read these pages, how could I not see the weaknesses?". I'm beginning to realize it was because I didn't know what to look for. My skills had not evolved to the point that I could identify the weaknesses. I'm sure I'm still not seeing all of the flaws, but I'm identifying and correcting a bunch of them. I'm taking out words, sentences, and paragraphs that might be well written but they just don't belong. "Self-indulgent" is the tag that most writers cringe about, but really that's what a lot of it is. Words that I might like when I write them, the way they sound or something, so I force them into the story. In many cases, these words are "telling" rather than "showing", but not always. It could just be a comparison I've come up with that I think is clever, so I try to squeeze it in.

Subtlety is the sign of a true craftsman, and I'm trying to develop that aspect of my writing. There is good argument for leaving some ambiguity in your words, and allowing the readers' imagination room to work. I fall prey to the same inclination that many amatuer writers have, which is a tendency to over-describe settings and characters, when fewer words will paint a more lucid scene. This is where the editing must provide a higher-level view and cut out all but the necessary details. I don't mean to say details aren't important, but that the details be well chosen for their purpose, rather than a rambling description filled with minutiae. Don't underestimate the imagination of the reader, and use subtlety to make the prose memorable.

On a different note, the more research I engage in regarding the publishing industry in general, the more difficult it is not to become cynical about the whole business. I'm forming an overall impression of a blood-sucking, life-draining process filled with rejection and uncertainty where luck and timing play a larger role than I ever suspected. I'm not a cynical person by nature - in fact, I'm rather naive in many ways - but in the books and the blogs I read, it seems to be a relatively thin and stable upper crust, while below that it is a roiling mosh pit of unpublished and mid-list authors vying for the attention of mercenary agents and editors.

Right now, I write because I love it. I love creating stories and characters and I love studying the craft. But like anyone else, I'd like to get paid for it. If I keep doing what I'm doing, hopefully one day I will get paid for it, and I can make a living doing what I love. In the meantime, I'll keep trying to grow and enjoy writing for the sense of fulfillment I get from putting together a beautiful paragraph. And I'll try to maintain a posture somewhere between naive and cynical.

I'm down with some kind of cold or flu or something the last two days. NyQuil gel caps are my friends right now. And orange juice. OJ and cran-raspberry juice combo. Hell of a concoction. Fortunately I'm off on Mondays, so if I'm not feeling better by tomorrow, I don't have to worry about going to work. Sucks to be sick right now, the weather is gorgeous. The reason I live in Florida. The good thing about it is, the weather will be like this for the next couple of months. Seventies and sunshine. Or at least, that's the norm. Can't take anything about the weather for granted anymore, it seems.

Chicken and broccoli casserole for all...


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