Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Long ago and far away

When I was about fifteen, or maybe ten, I realized that my stories were made up entirely of lists. I had passive characters who wandered through life making lists of what they would do if they weren't passive wimps. Grocery lists, runaway lists, name lists, dream lists.

Actually I think it must have been closer to ten. So I fixed it. I stopped making lists, and started actually having my characters do something. Anything. It was an uphill battle. Then a few years later (I'd conquered my mountain of lists) I realized something else.

All my stories were description. Descriptions of places, descriptions of people and things and descriptions of what my characters should be doing but weren't. I had mastered the art of description to the point where my stories were nothing else.

At that point, I made a mistake. In hindsight I can call it a mistake, but at the time I was simply correcting the problem I found. I was writing too much description, therefore I should write less description.

At that point, my process of writing was much like a movie. The story flowed past my mind's eye and I wrote down what I saw. That being the case, the best way to use less description was to stop visualizing, right?

So I practiced until the words flowed from my fingers to the page without once passing through a visual check. To the point that I stopped seeing the real world. To the point that now, my characters have been described as "placeholders in a shadow world" and I need to do a complete description edit before I even think of publishing. Even at that, most of my readers want more description than I'm giving them.

It occurred to me last week that I need to learn to visualize again. When I was doing the description edit of Without A Voice I struggled to visualize so I could get the details right. I think it worked, but then I dropped the idea. I never internalized it.

If I can visualize what's happening while I write, I might eventually be able to bypass the description edit completely. At this point it's a line by line fight, and one of the hardest edits. The emotion edit is the other, but that's a blog post for another time.

It's an uphill battle, but I'm determined to win.


  1. You will win. Never give up. Through the years we learn and learn and then one day we've done it. Every story is word by word, line by line. Best of luck to you.

    1. Writing is a physical addiction--I CAN'T give up. Not that I've tried, mind you. Except once. :)