Monday, January 30, 2012
Apparently, I love the sound of my own voice. Same goes for my writing: I love to read my own words. What can I say? There are times I think I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread.
And when I get on a roll, Faulkner ain’t got nothing on me. I can easily make one thought, one sentence fill three pages… front and back.
For readers, it is pure agony. You might as well ask them to sit in a chair and read all that piled up nonsense with a metal tray of hot coals in their laps. It’s that enjoyable.
I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling and how it relates to writing a novel. I say novel because that is truly my favorite form. I had written three novels before sitting down to write my first short story. In writing the short story, I felt constricted and longed for elbow room to develop my story and characters.
After completing a few more stories, I began to appreciate the challenge of getting the “story” across in thirty pages, instead of three hundred. The tightness of a thirty page story provides a powerful impact not as easily attained or sustained in a novel.
As I’m in the development stages of my first new book in gabillion years, I find myself hesitant to follow the same process as previously taken with my other novels. As the story takes shape, I’m conscious of the short, powerful punch I want to make. I want this book to hit the reader in the gut, to stun and astound. And maybe induce vomiting.
Sounds like a compacted story is the way to go. Only, it may not be so simple whittling the four hundred pages of story in my head down to two hundred and fifty pages.
And yet, I think of conversation I had once with a professional songwriter from Nashville. After twenty years writing songs for some of the top country stars he was taking a shot at screenwriting. He was interested in the chance to tell a story in a format longer than a three and a half minute song. He wanted more elbow room.
But the more I think about story, and structure, and emotional impact, I can think of no other storytelling format that has the impact a well written song has.
What four hundred page book could add anything to the song, Ode to Billy Joe? Do any of Bob Dylan’s songs need additional material to impart the tone, setting, and plot intended? Who hasn’t heard Eleanor Rigby and not felt what it was like to be her?
I believe when I was a less experienced writer, I felt I had to get everything into a manuscript; every word, thought, and feeling. But now, I’m at a point where I’m interested in what does not make it into the manuscript. I’m seeing the beauty in less is more. And I think I like it.
Writing is a solitary expedition that starts at one point and ends in a place completely unimaginable. As I dive deeper into this latest book, I believe my expedition is taking me away from the familiar path I’ve worn thin over the years. Now into my fourth novel, I am heading into a jungle of gnarled trees and twisted roots that must be hacked and hacked and hacked to proceed.
And I am most excited.
As much as I’d like to go into more detail, I think I’ll keep it brief and get my machete out. Let the hacking begin.