On Writing – Writing How I Read

Lost-season1I have a rule of thumb when giving a new book or a recommended TV show a try: I read the first 50 pages or watch the first three episodes then pause. If I am naturally drawn back to the material, then I finish. If no sense of innate enjoyment, captivation, or intrigue  is being derived to draw me back naturally then I never think twice. (One notable example of this is the TV show LOST, sorry everyone.)

I apply the same kind of thinking to my novels in a way. I stop myself around the 20 page mark and read my material thus far, then reread it, and reread it again. After I’ve edited and proofread a handful of times, I ask myself: do I want to come back to this as a reader? As a writer? Is this the road I want to continue walking to reach my destination? is this the destination I want to continue striving toward?

I did that this past weekend with my first drafting of Unicorns, some of which I’ve shared already here, and found the material wanting. Among a handful of plotting issues for pace and urgency, I didn’t feel the narrative voice quite conveyed the message I wanted to, nor did I trust it to. There is no absolutist moral I’m leaving that can be easily divined as I did with Beneath the Wood. This one is much more ephemeral, so I decided a first person voice was what I needed.

I’ll share some of the early work from the first person narrative perspective here later, but for now, I want to use this as a bit of advice: we are trying to tell the best story we can. We are striving to tell that story as best as we can. In so doing, we cannot be afraid to criticize ourselves, to admit that a method is not working and that we need to rebuild from the foundation.

It doesn’t matter that I had 20 pages already written. It wouldn’t matter if I had 200. What matters is those pages being the best they can be. If they needed editing, then I’d bust out the red pen. However, if they need to be completely rewritten, do not fear the “delete” key.

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