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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Craft of Writing

I began to write fiction in 2010. As a retired trial lawyer with three decades of courtroom experience, I knew how to write. Didn't I? Legal arguments, opening and closing statements for trial, correspondence, memorandums, briefs and on and on. How hard could it be to write good fiction?

Turns out, I had no idea how difficult writing fiction would be. I bought the books. I tried my hand at a few stories, concocted some scenes. Even wrote a poem or two. Stuff you can't throw away fast enough for fear someone might read it.

When I look back at that early writing--the stuff I forgot to delete--I am aghast at the poor quality. Embarrassing stuff, filled with adverbs and telling, point of view all over the place, misplaced modifiers and overwritten passages that did little else but call attention to itself.

After years of study and effort, I am still deleting some but saving more. I have reached the conclusion that writing fiction is beyond complete mastery by anyone, the greats included. Which is why writing is such a wonderful thing. You can never conquer it. You can never say, with honesty, that you have mastered the craft of writing, not wholly, literally, utterly. Can't be done. They say golf is hard to master. I've played golf. It's not even close.

The muses, after all, are quite fickle maidens. You just keep working, editing and rewriting, with the hope that eventually something will sing. And then that someone, anyone, will read and understand.

1 comment:

  1. Some of the best writing advice, IMO, deals with the overuse of adverbs. It's common advice, but often ignored. We know, of course, that adverbs modify or qualify an adjective or verb.

    Adverbs are not all bad. We have to use them. Adverbs are useful in conversation and common writing, but can be harmful to fiction.

    The worst adverbs for fiction writing are those that express manner or degree, such as 'gently,' 'weakly,' 'heavily,' or 'sadly.' Such adverbs are fine for first drafts. Within those first drafts, adverbs can be circled and noted as places in the story to demonstrate in scene what the adverb states. 'Show' what 'gently' looks or feels like or sounds like, don't tell.

    Better to show/describe/demonstrate sadness in a sentence or two rather than tell sadness with sadly. Sadness has many faces and facets, after all. Consider bringing all that sadness on stage to be seen rather than telling with an adverb. Let the reader experience sadness.

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