Friday, March 28, 2014

First Draft


MANUSCRIPT TENSION

The manuscript for the fourth novel in my Westfall plantation series is with my editor Steven Bauer. I’ll be on pins and needles until it returns with his comments. I’m worried that the concept may be slipshod. Or the characters don’t ring true. Or the plot doesn’t make sense. Or it’s too slow. Too elliptical. Too dull. Too disjointed. Too artificial.

When I first started writing, I thought whatever I got down on paper, whether poem, short story, or essay, had meaning. I was proud of my work. As I’ve attended workshops over the years I have come to realize that what’s meaningful writing to me may have no more than one admirer. My confidence in my writing may have been a touch of solipsism, perhaps the consequence of growing up in a rural area where there was less interaction with people. To clarify, I’m talking about meaningful writing, which I don’t equate with good writing. It’s easier to identify good writing (in the sense of grammatical, logical, structurally sound) than meaningful writing.

Tastes differ. There are as many opinions as there are people, which makes meaningful writing a moving target. It’s as hard to create as a beautiful song or an engaging movie. Regardless of how long I work on a manuscript or how often I rewrite (and I can’t count the times), I’m no judge of my own work. Obviously I’ve sent to Steven what I think is a workable story with real characters. I feel like I’ve lived with these characters for over ten years. I’ve experienced the events that occur in the book. This may not mean I’ve fashioned an interesting story. I’ll have some confidence in this if Steven’s comments are positive.

Another thing I’ve discovered from workshops is that words naturally equivocate. By that I mean that I can write a paragraph that is perfectly clear to me, but when it’s read to a group of other writers, different meanings can come from all directions. There are usually about eight writers attending our workshops, not usually the same people. What I hope for is a good response from a majority. I don’t know how other workshops go, but a subdued response is not a good one with our group. If a work arouses interest, it’s obvious.

Enough about writing. I’m off for a week with my grandchildren. I doubt if I’ll be worrying about my manuscript while keeping a handle on Ava (10 years old), Frank (7 years old) and Marlon (6 years old).

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