I wasn’t a fan of The Great Gatsby the first time I read it. However, a teacher challenged me to reread it and try to find an unnecessary word in it. I took the challenge, and couldn’t find a word I could argue was truly superfluous. It’s the essence of tight, intentional, emotionally moving writing. Everything serves a purpose whether for plot, characterization or symbolism.
This is the goal of even my own more comedic writing. You can spoil a good joke with poor pacing, or with over complicating a simple quip and story. As writers, we should ask ourselves of every chapter, scene, dialogue exchange, use of imagery, etc: does this serve to advance plot, develop character, or enrich the symbolism? Do the words I’m using contribute to one of those core supports of the edifice of my story?
It’s a daunting and meticulous damned challenge. If it came naturally, everyone would be a novelist I suppose. It’s a grind I’ve created a number of stage gates for myself in outlining, drafting, rereading, editing and more to get better at, and on my third serious novel project, I’m realizing I still have more to learn.
I’ve managed to create an outline of the first half of Drawful the Awful already, and as I lay out each scene that advances the adventure I ask myself what characters are involved and why. What are they accomplishing to advance plot, character development or demonstrate a moral at the core of the story? If they’re not accomplishing the above, then why is the scene here? If they’re only accomplishing one of the above, what can I do to accomplish more?
Challenge yourself to have writing that enriches the reader with each line in some way- or multiple ways if you’re really a pro. It’s a challenge, and I couldn’t be happier to be undertaking this challenge once more with a story I’m having this much fun with.
Go further today than yesterday, and further tomorrow than today. Whatever your grind is, be about your grind.