Monday’s Friend: Chuck Bowie

Today I’m pleased to be doing a blog swap with Canadian writer and fellow MuseItUp stable mate Chuck Bowie.When you’re finished here, hop on over to his blog to see what I have to say about re-writing.

But for now let’s give a big welcome to Chuck!

Oh, Those Oh-So Predictable Lines!.
By Chuck Bowie

‘Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.’
Benjamin Franklin

You’ve had that first sniff at success, be it a completed story or a published novel and now, armed with confidence, you open a blank screen and begin:

Chuck‘It was a dark and stormy night.” So far, so good. That familiar ring upon re-reading those six words suggests you’re onto something, so you proceed. The words flow, and you get your thousand words on that first day, and it feels good.

That evening, watching one of those Sunday evening movies, you put on your writer’s cap and analyze each scene as it unfolds. You nudge your partner. “Behind the door is the librarian. She’s gonna be holding a gun!” And Lo! That is exactly what happens. With a tone of admiration, your partner says “I can’t wait until your story is written. You won’t be as predictable as this show, right?” And you nod your head. Of course you won’t.

The next day, you write another thousand words, and by Friday, you have five thousand words in your story. It’s very exciting. On Monday, you begin the day by reviewing the twenty written pages, and you realize something. Those first six words sound familiar, because you’d read them, a long time ago. From someone else’s work. Concerned, you speed through the paragraphs, noting tired lines, too-familiar lines, and ‘lazy’ lines: the ones you wrote because they were ‘good enough’.

Well, good enough isn’t good enough.

With that having been said, do you throw up your hands and give it up? Should you chuck it and start over? Perhaps. But, hidden within the dross, is there a really fine sentence, or line? Does one (or more) of your paragraphs really push your story along? Does one of your sentences, however awkwardly it was constructed, reveal something true about your character, or the scene, or the description?

Well, then. You now have options. You can begin to fix things, cutting lines like a machete through tangled Amazonian greenery. Or you can, of course, always purge and recreate. Might I suggest a third option?

Keep going.

Writing is re-writing, to coin a phrase. But just before re-writing, is the writing part. That’s where you are right now, staring at your twenty pages of not-good-enough work. If your plot is intact, your characters are unfolding, and your setting has been set, keep on going. Make minor adjustments as you travel down this path, but keep up your pace. All too soon, you’ll get to the re-writing phase. Engineers have this expression: ‘First direction, then velocity.’ Let this be your mantra. Get your plot rolling before worrying too much about details you can refine later.

Unless.

Unless everything you’ve written is derivative, too familiar or just plain old copied from somewhere. This is not good. Shakespeare says there is nothing new under the sun, but this does not give the writer license to take whatever they want and call it their own. So be tough on yourself, once you’ve entered the rewriting phase.

You may recall me mentioning to keep going. And I also noted there’s not much about the human condition that hasn’t already been experienced (and in some way documented). With these in mind, it is absolutely critical to have an interesting story to tell. If it isn’t worth telling, or if it’s been told to death—and by better writers than you and me—then perhaps this isn’t your story to tell.

StealItAllCover180116 (2)Writing is hard work. The average book of fiction takes 80,000 words times twenty re-writes totaling 1.6 million carefully studied words. Do not put yourself through this if you aren’t going to commit to the best possible effort. This includes offering the best plot you can imagine, and a strong re-write can help. Do not, above all else, be predictable. Samuel Johnson wrote the most scathing review I ever read. It went like this: ‘Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.’

Don’t be that writer.

Author bio:

Chuck Bowie writes international suspense-thrillers from his Fredericton, New Brunswick home. His third novel, STEAL IT ALL drops in paperback this fall.

Find out more about Chuck from his website, or by following him on Twitter.

 

 

Advertisements

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: