Archive | April 2013

How revision can fix the “messiness of overwriting” and other weaknesses.

All writers have both strengths and weaknesses. In the “Guide to Revision” May/ June 2013 Writers Digest issue, David Corbett points out that all writers have strengths and weaknesses in their personalities which will naturally come out in their writing. He reveals that his own weakness of overwriting is “from a misbegotten devotion to being thorough, when in fact restraint is necessary to lure the reader in.” Because this is a weakness in his personality, where he has the tendency to cross every ” t” and dot every “i” in his everyday life, it also comes out in his writing. But he has learned to let it go, let his writing flow and then later because he recognizes his weakness, he can fix it during revision.
It is much easier to allow our mind to flow at the initial first draft stage and revise later than to struggle and risk not writing anything at all.
Just as Mr. Corbett saw students who were shy or introverted reflect their personalities in their writing by avoiding all conflicts in the texts as they do in their lives while conversely, he saw compulsive talkers “write dialogue comprised of a jabbering onslaught of empty words.”
These weaknesses are part of us and will come out in our writing. It is natural and we shouldn’t expect anything else. No writer writes perfectly without flaws during the initial writing stage. No writer has strengths without weaknesses.
With regard to my own weakness of overwriting, I no longer feel alone when Mr. Corbett writes “Jokes you explain are never funny. Stories you explain are never interesting. The key is to provide enough so the reader feels engaged, but not so much she can feel you trying to control how she responds to the text.”
Since I do overwrite, overexplain, and write “redundantly” and I know it (I have probably repeated myself and overexplained here in this blog!) and I sometimes, no -often let that block me, I am now learning to let the words spill and then later, through the process of revision I will clean up the mess and wipe it clean. At least then I will have SOMETHING written in the end. Something that pulled the reader in but left her feeling grateful that I trusted her enough to fill in the pieces and get it all on her own!

Inner Conflict

People do not go through life plunging ahead, knowing exactly what to do without fear nagging at them. We all have doubts that get in our way. Similarly,characters in our stories would not interest the readers if they had none of their own doubts, fears, inner conflicts. Their struggles are what connects readers to the story.
James N. Frey writes in his “How to Write a Damn Good Novel II” : “inner conflict” can be thought of as a battle between two voices within a character: one of reason, the other of passion- or of two conflicting passions.” Haven’t we all been torn at some point in our lives between following what our “head” tells us to do rather than what our “heart” says- or vice versa.
James Scott Bell (one of my very favorite writer’s advice experts) tells us in his book “Plot and Structure”: “Many times it is fear on one side, telling the lead not to act. Inner conflict is resolved when the lead, by listening to the other side- duty, honor, principle, or the like- overcomes doubt and acts accordingly.”
This inner conflict that people struggle with should be reflected in our protagonist as a sure way to create an emotional bond with our readers. When the reader identifies with the protagonist, we create that awesome feeling that the story – at some level- is actually happening to the reader.
Subsequently, the more the reader identifies with the lead character’s inner struggle, the more attached the reader becomes to the book and the less likely she will be to put it down.