Tweaking… and tweaking… and tweaking…

     It’s just not right. You think you’re done with a story. You’re proud. You’ve accomplished something. Then you go back to bask in your achievement.

     Only, you realize it needs something.

     So you tweak.

     Then you move a paragraph.

     Then you change the storyline.

     Next thing you know, you’re in a full re-write.

     I must admit, this is rather foreign territory to me. In news, the explanatory copy and sound bites/quotes have a general sensical order, to be expressed clearly and in few words. Even if I had hour after hour to rewrite, which I don’t, the order of events doesn’t change drastically. What happened, happened in a certain way. I can change how I approach or back into the story, but getting too creative in the mere minutes that I have to tell a story can hamper understanding.

     Writing fiction, though, isn’t at all like that. The story’s yours, obviously, so you can order events however you’d like.

     And you do.

     Ad nauseum.

     I’m finding that when I have no deadline, I keep going back and “tweaking” a story, and I wonder if I’ll ever be happy with it.

     Do you walk away? Do you say “good enough is good enough?” Or do you keep tweaking because you have no deadline? In the end, the goal is the best piece of writing you are capable of producing. The problem is, that line keeps moving as your writing experience evolves.

Free Flowing

     Why is it that adult writers have such a hard time letting go of details? Why do we slow down the free flow of ideas — even in a first draft — to get bogged down trying to find just that perfect word?

     I was so pleased watching my daughter write a story this evening. After fifteen minutes of hearing the scratch of pencil on paper, I saw her walk up to me, notebook in hand, to get my take on her story. She was quick to say it was a first draft, unfinished, grammar not taken in account, etc. I suppose she expected me to start correcting misspellings.

     I wouldn’t have dreamed of it. How wonderful to see her write! How liberating to see her just go with it!

     Sure, young children generally have neither the grammar skills nor the vocabulary to write flawless works with words concise enough to match every nuance. That doesn’t make their effort and especially the “imperfect” execution less wonderful. In fact, many of us adult writers could learn from their example. We could just write and worry about the fixes later. No need to sink into that quicksand of “correction.”

Decisions, Decisions…

     I’m working on my next book now. It’s a language-focused picture book. Doesn’t sound cute, but it is. The trouble is, I’m writing two versions and can’t decide which I’m liking better. One is simple prose. The other is written in rhyme. I’m hoping that by the time I’m done, one will stand out as the clear favorite, because, as it stands now, I’m pulled two ways.

     When I was a child, I loved reading verse. I adored the rhythm of the read, and the more I read, the more I remembered, to the point that I could eventually recite the whole poem or story without referring to the page.

     On the other hand, prose feels less stifling to me. I feel better able to express myself, within the same space, because I’m not forcing words to fit a particular rhythm.

     This book, apparently, really wants itself written. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be demanding it twice.

Accentuate Accents

     I love writing accents. Giving a character a voice that really fits him is so satisfying — and fun.

     And there are many different accents. There are the national accents, the regional dialects, the local twangs, the tradesmen’s lingo. There are variances through education and age. Real people even “tweak their speak” on a whim, favoring whatever suits their fancy, depending on the situation.

     An accent greatly inspirits a character. We’ve all read books whose characters’ voices were unique. So how to make that happen? Listening and repeating in my head works well enough for me. The problem comes in putting it on paper in such a way that English grammar doesn’t alter the pronunciation.

     I’ve written several characters possessing voices so distinct that they almost speak their parts before I can write them. They leave me trailing behind them, transcribing as fast as I’m able. It’s sublime when that happens.