Hawking Up Hairballs

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I haven't blogged in a while. I'd like to blame the holidays, but I can't. They had nothing to do with it. My novel did. About a week before Christmas, I finished the last, complete draft. Since then, I've been reworking the weak sections, and damned if there aren't a lot of them. Every time I've thought about blogging, I've decided that I'd work on the novel instead.

In reworking the novel, I'm amazed about how badly I can write at times. It makes me want to pull the hair from my head, though my hair is thankfully too short for that. One thing I can't seem to resist is commenting on what is happening in the novel. For example, I might write something like this, "X happened, and Y happened. That couldn't be good." Now, what the hell is the purpose of that final sentence? The preceding description should be sufficient to lead the reader to make the judgement that I want him to make. I find that I write best when I rely on simple declarative sentences that describe the action. If I want to comment on what is happening, it's best to do that in dialogue. I'm not saying that this is the only way to write. I'd love to be able to write like Pynchon in Gravity's Rainbow and make it work, but I can't. It's my temperament. I tend to be the sort of person who wants to cut the bullshit and get to the point. Unlike most people, whose first drafts are overwritten, mine tend to be overly sparse. I have to go back and flesh things out.

The other big problem I have is just plain lazy writing. The usually results from a failure to devote sufficient time to the work of the imagination. As a consequence, I don't understand the scene in sufficient detail and that invariably leads to flat prose. It can also lead to reliance upon hackneyed expressions and, when I say hackneyed, I'm not just referring to the blatant ones. Here are some phrases that I find cliched, though they might not obviously be so to lots of people. "He didn't know what had come over him." "His finances were shaky." "Her voice was filling with (name emotion)." "Run into a number of problems." "Tackle a difficult problem." You'd be surprised at how difficult it can be to come up with fresh prose. I figure that it takes me an hour or more to write 300 words of solid prose, so you can imagine how much time it's taking me to write a 90,000 word novel.

I've been think about following the lead of my friend David Matthews by posting sections of the novel in my blog, but I have yet to make up my mind about that. I may do it, but not until I'm certain that I have finished with it.


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