January 22, 2005

parsing the phrases

I've been wanting to write here, not let this site go fallow. But it'll have to be in bits and bites for a time. Most of what I want to write is meaty and I don't have time for meat. No, I'm in novel rewrite mode, heavy duty. A five hundred forty nine page document entails a whole lotta words to examine, scenes to parse, interactions to measure. Yup. Rewrite heaven, that's where I'll be. It's not unlike picking fleas out of a long haired cat's belly. Takes concentration and focus and the little suckers keep jumping away before you can squish them.

When you look at anything under a microscope (yes, even a flea), you discover all kinds of unexpected facets. For instance: I use of course an awful lot. Sometimes in dialogue, but mostly in the narrative. And sometimes it works better than anything else could in that particular spot and so I leave it alone. But it's a writing tic, that kind of repetition. It's not thematic, it's not tonal, it's just habit. So I pick out all the of courses and prepare the slide for close examination. Does this one pass muster? Yes? Good. No? What else gives the mood I want right there? Hmm… And on it goes. I use gerunds a bit more than the style manuals suggest, and even run-on sentences and fragments. When should I fix them? When do they serve to convey emotion in a breathless endless monologue or staccato short beats? When do they just annoy and interrupt the flow of the read? What is bad writing and what is my voice, not only acceptable but even, dare I say, desirable, even though it may not be the way your English teacher taught? The simple little stuff, it turns out, is not so simple after all.

I'm also finding some dialogue, some inner monologue, that worked well when I wrote it, doesn't work so well in the rewrite. Not because it's bad (though inevitably some is), but because it doesn’t fit what comes later. An example: A man speaking with his employee. He reveals an emotion. A bit out of character, but he's feeling something pretty strong, so okay. That's even kind of interesting, that he'd do that right there. Only thing? A few scenes later he reveals the same emotion to someone else. And it works much better in that context. The first revelation? Gone. He's all business in this draft. When I wrote the first scene, I obviously had no idea he'd do that later.

This is actually the most intriguing part of this process for me. I remember at least some of how this evolved into a manscript, I remember being in the dark about how I'd get from prologue to finis, but now that it's complete? It feels, even to me, as if it were always thus. Always this particular form, this specific ride. And so it almost surprises me to find these out of place moments that are there not because of sloppy writing (though, did I mention? that too, in other spots) but because I wrote forward into the dark and now it's all brightly lit.

I'm enjoying it more than I expected.

Posted by Tamar at January 22, 2005 06:54 PM