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A couple of articles on writing 
9th-Feb-2010 07:37 am
Just wanted to post links to a couple of articles that echo some conversations I've had about writing with friends recently:

A writing career becomes harder to scale: I'm dubious about whether the phenomenon of would-be writers hoping for a quick success is really new - I'm sure that back in Dickens's day you had hopefuls who were just sure they could score that coveted newspaper serial slot and become rich and famous. But I think the article is right about the necessary quality of persistence in a writer. Ten years ago, I used to wonder whether I had the talent to become a successful fiction writer. These days, I wonder about whether I have the sheer bloody-minded persistence.

One pair of boots at a time - how to get everything in a scene right and not go mad: How to cope with difficulties writing dialogue and description at the same time. I'll admit, I've never perceived a particular difficulty in writing dialogue and description simultaneously, but I think that's because I try to write very strongly through the lens of the point-of-view character, which tends to unify the dialogue and description into a single experience. But I had a conversation with someone about this difficulty quite recently, and then this article popped up. Sometimes I think the internet is eavesdropping on me.
9th-Feb-2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
Okay, so the boot article makes no sense to me whatsoever as a writer of written prose meant to be read as prose. Perhaps if I was writing screenplays it would make more sense, because the dialog is the pattern of words in a screenplay, more or less--if it's not said by somebody, it's not words, and the action will be experienced visually rather than auditorily by the viewer. Fine. But my written prose will be taken in on just the one channel--so the rhythm of what the character says not only has to work as it would if it was dialog, it also has to work with the rest of prose fiction indicators--description, action tags, dialog tags. It will parse differently if I write:

Wendy sighed. "I don't think that's a great idea, but you do what you want."


"I don't think that's a great idea," said Wendy, "but you do what you want."


"I don't think that's a great idea," said Wendy, throwing the bread dough down with a resounding thunk, "but you do what you want."

Those are not only different actions, they will fit differently with different previous comments' rhythms. Trying to do them separately feels like it will result in odd beats in prose.
9th-Feb-2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's a very good description of why I would have a hard time writing a dialogue-only draft of a story. Although I think even for people who could write such a draft, it's more like an outline than a draft - it's missing a lot of stuff that is necessary in a final draft, but if it helps you get to a final draft, great.

I do sometimes wonder if what goes on in other writers' heads when they write is anything like what goes on in my head when I write. When I write, I do it very much sentence by sentence, so it's hard to separate what happens from the specific words used to describe what happens - I'm usually figuring out both at the same time. But I get the impression that some writers get a very clear picture of what happens in their head, and for them the tremendous challenge is putting that into actual words.

Hmmm, well, there's a question to break the ice at parties: "When you write, what does the inside of your head look like?"
10th-Feb-2010 06:15 am (UTC)
"Outside of my head, my best friend is the book I'm writing. Inside of my head it's too dark to write."
9th-Feb-2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear.
9th-Feb-2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
Both of those are very interesting, if a little disheartening (the second essay, more than the first, of course, although I think the author was largely concentrating on more "literary" fiction than genre). The advice in the comments for the first one was great, and is actually going to shape the way I edit today! So thanks for that. :)
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