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bear by san

March 2017

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bear by san

Make me a beast half as brave.

Just because I happen to be thinking about it now.

If you know how to drive--do you remember when you were first learning how to drive, and you had your hands really tight on the steering wheel, and you kept making all these tiny corrections, and the car never seemed to be in the right place? So you were there, oversteering, and totally stressed out, and it never seemed to work well?

And then eventually you relaxed a little and realized that as long as you were paying attention and had your eyes on the road, the car just kind of magically seemed to go where you were thinking of putting it?

Writing is like that too.




Corrolary: voice and strong prose are another one of those balancing acts. One of the oversteering things that writers do is using "feel" and "see" constantly, in a misguided attempt to establish POV.

Does this mean you should *never* write "She felt a cool breeze on her neck." or "He saw it fall." ?

No.

But you should use them when the feeling or the seeing or the hearing or the whatever are the important bit, not the cool breeze or the falling.

Narrative drive is, I think, the writer's most essential tool. If you haven't got it, you're probably getting a lot of rejections that start, "There's nothing wrong with this story--" and you're kicking walls in frustration.

What's wrong with the story at that point is that there's not enough right with it. It's not irresistible. It does not have narrative confidence. Narrative confidence is one of those things you learn when you are no longer holding onto the wheel so tight your knuckles ache.

Go work on your rhetoric. It'll come.




NB: Relax. Almost nobody actually knows how to use the subjunctive mood.


*

Comments

Dear Bear,

I'm still a white-knuckle driver at 47.

Signed,
Glad She Has A Husband
Well, um.

It's just a metaphor. ;-)
As I have a few friends taking driving lessons at present, I've been reminded of one of the other early driver problems:

Learning to only move the part you need to move. Early drivers, trying to look over their shoulders to check the blind spot before changing lanes, have a natsy habit of moving their hands as well as their heads, and thus turning the wheel and swerving.

Also fits.
Really? When does this happen?

I am not joking; I am begging for a lifeline, here.
It hit me in the middle of The Stratford Man. Suddenly, I knew how to write.

That was, um, my fifth novel. :-P

It's also about when I started consistently selling my short fiction, instead of winding up trunking two thirds of it.
I don't know about writing skill, but I grew up using the formal subjunctive all the time. (I think it's a dialect thing.) I did not know that was what I was doing until I learned a foreign language.

Then again, I grew up with people who used to correct pronunciation of the long O in orange and Oregon (to a short O). On the one hand, that correction process has supplied me with a really good ear for fine gradations of vowel pronunciation. On the other hand, I asked an Oregonian once how she would like me to say the name of her state, and she said the long O was completely fine.
I use it a lot too, and my copyeditors are always correcting it out. Yanno, it makes them happy.
And then eventually you relaxed a little and realized that as long as you were paying attention and had your eyes on the road, the car just kind of magically seemed to go where you were thinking of putting it?

You forgot about the part where, for no readily apparent reason, the wheels fall off. Sometimes at 70mph or so.
I'll start by saying that I'm not, by any means, a professional writer and I have no immediate plans to try to write anything other than the stories I dally with to keep my mind from turning to mush.

That said, thanks for this really good advice and the encouragement contained therein. I have this thing where I let myself get way too into setting the scene and describing things that really don't need describing. It can be anything; weather, the room, minute facial tics--for some reason the minutiae fascinates me and so does trying to describe it. I love setting up. It's only recently that I have learned that this really does get in the way of the story for pretty much anyone that reads it and it sometimes throws me off the original story idea. I do it with new characters, too; I become engrossed with backstory for them, families, where they come from, how they look and sound.

This is probably why I will never get published! Still, my goal in writing is to get better at it and with that in mind, I've begun reading more about the mechanics of writing--blogs like this one are a godsend. :)
And what about how you know how to parallel park, but don't have a clue what to do in a parking lot?
Thank you -- I have another entry in my "print it out and stick it where I can see it" file. I needed to hear this today, but I'm going to try not to think about all the crashing I did as a new driver.
I've just finished up with the cute young torturers at the physical therapy clinic. There's a device they use for balance training--there are several, but this one's one of the worst--it's half a big rubber ball, set up flat side down (there are rumors of one that goes round side down, but they didn't inflict that one on me); you step up on top of it with one foot, balance for at least a count of five, and then step down again. Repeat until you fall off, the timer goes off, or they take pity on you. There's also the stand-on-one-foot-on-a-tiny-trampoline routine. With both, the secret is: Do not tense up. Do not stiffen your leg, or any other part of your body. Do not hold your breath. Do not look in any direction but straight forward. Just relax, and stand there on that unstable surface, on one foot, until you're done. When you get good at that, they'll have you start doing things with your free leg, like making little circles in the air with the toes.

Find anything familiar in that?
*g* I do squats on one of those at the gym.

I posted a while back on how writing is like archery. Eye on the target. Nose to the string. Tuck your butt. Stand up straight. Don't hold your breath. Don't lock your elbow. Don't close your hand.

Or, as buymeaclue says, "It's simple. It's just not easy."
If I were not one who knew how to use the subjunctive mood, I would not be the woman I am. Be that as it may, I appreciate the insight of your metaphor. As one who has not enough right, I look forward to the resumed bloodflow in my knuckles.
I'm sorry.

I just had a moment.
Writing is like that too.

Man, I so hope you are right about that. It means there might be hope for me yet.