Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Second Look

A lot of writers determine rules for writing that they use while working. I do not. As far as I'm concerned, there are no rules for writing. There are techniques and tricks, but no firm rules. However, I do find some of these so-called rules useful in editing. After all, rules are for examining, not creating. 

Working on the revisions for my novel, there is one rule in particular that I've found helpful in navigating through the static. One of Kurt Vonnegut's rules states:

Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action. 

Though, I don't completely agree...I do find it to be a good guide. For most part, it should be followed. However, I do believe there is room for description and language. But by using this rule as a guide, I find it does help cut down on a tendency all writers have, which is to overwrite. By eliminating chunks of lofty prose, the remaining bits gain in power. I think my editors will be happy.

Another thing I've really been trying to do, is to link character and description. I recently read The Child Buyer by John Hersey and came across this passage:

Everything about him was too tight; his collar, armpits of his coat, his vest—the buttons and buttonholes on it made a trail of parentheses down his chest and belly. Veins stood inflated on the backs of his hands, on hi neck, and in the middle of his forehead. He gave an impression of a man containing a superabundance of oxygen, or maybe helium. He wasn’t fat; he was just too well filled, and I vouch that what he was stuffed with was uncertainty. 

Easily one of the most perfect descriptions I've ever read. Creative but clear and completely defines the character. 

There is, of course, the other questions regarding the bigger picture in the revision stage. Plot structure, sequence, etc. Those are things you really can't follow a rule for. The pace of story has to be felt in my opinion. Reading along, you just sense when something is out of place or when a key scene is missing, or a useless scene is taking up space. Be ruthless in a second draft, I suppose is the only rule. Question everything, but do not pass GO until you have figured out the answer. 

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