Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Feeling the Weight

I finished typing in my revisions to Pinewood Fog, formerly Ghost Story, and now recently changed to Something Apart from Nature. Having title problems there, obviously.

In the course of my changing reading tastes and writing wishes, I've developed an ear for prose that "sounds" wrong. But I haven't quite developed a way to diagnose and correct the problem. Sometimes the problem is obvious but the solution is not. Sometimes I can't even figure out the problem. It seems remedial, but I may need to sit down and diagram all the things various elements of writing should accomplish ("should" being subjective, but I seem to be gathering an understanding of what I think writing should accomplish and whether or not that's in line with various editors and agents; unfortunately, I have a hard time keeping the "shoulds" in mind when writing draft and doing revisions). I have to keep better track of this in my mind, maintain a better awareness at least when I sit down to improve a draft.

But then I read something like this. Look at all the things that are supposed to be in a paragraph or two in a query letter. That essay just kept going on. And on. And on. Yet there's really nothing to disagree with. In order to garner interest from an agent, a query letter really does have to accomplish a ton with very little. This is just a recent example of a lot of writing advice I'm reading lately that is good but also serves to make me aware of how much one word is supposed to do.

In short, I'm getting a bit tripped up, like the centipede who suddenly wondered exactly how he's supposed to make walking work with all those damn legs.

In this sense, it's a very good thing I'm focused on short fiction at the moment. While one might argue that my words have even more to do in the smaller scale, I can at least keep better track of the suckers. I'm also taking the small scale to teach myself ways to fix the wrong-sounding parts. I could tell as I did the type-in that there were words and sentences and paragraphs and, in one case, a whole chunk of a scene that didn't quite belong or didn't serve enough of the story, but mostly I was unable to fix that on the fly. So I'll have to do a second revision and really get into some nitty gritty examinations of those 11,293 words. I want to learn what I'm doing wrong and see how the things I got right worked. But I don't want to over analyze.

Here's the really wacky thing: I'm looking forward to this. But I still feel the weight of all I have yet to learn even as I take in the weight of all I have already learned.

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