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LITERARY BLING January 20, 2011

Posted by lycan librarian in writing.

     My friend Rich Figel is a brilliant screenwriter.  He understands plot, marketability, characterization, and all the other elusive stuff writers are supposed to know.  He’s always able to pinpoint exactly what I’m doing wrong in my novels, and when he does, I get it. 100%!  So why can’t I see it on my own? I can look at everyone else’s writing and see what they need to cut out or improve, but I can’t pick it out of my own work. I get blinded by my literary bling; the spirited characters, colorful locations and wild scenes that I love to write, but that sometimes don’t contribute anything to the plot.

     The bling is hard to let go. The creative juices flow when I write it, so it always seems a shame to have to dam up the results. But just as one must suffer for beauty, they must also suffer for their craft. One by one, the words, sentences, characters, and paragraphs must be removed, like golden chains and diamond pinky rings, until the writing is stripped down to the beauty contained in its own countenance — much like the beauty we can see in others, but seldom in ourselves. So we write, and rewrite, and we take our chances. And if we’re lucky, we learn to listen to the Rich Figels, those who are able to see our work through fresh eyes and correct us with intelligence and tact.

     This doesn’t, of course, mean I’ll stop throwing in the bling. When you’re an extrovert in your writing, you’re going to keep pushing the limit, and that means you’re going to have to keep editing. But every now and then you’ll get to keep a scrap of gold that’s embedded into the text just right, and that will make everything worthwhile.

     You can read Rich’s pearls of wisdom at squashedgecko.wordpress.com.   Happy writing — and reading!



1. richfigel - January 20, 2011

Thanks for the kind words, but I have to “correct” PG on something — I don’t really try to correct her, because I don’t think there is any right or wrong way to write. But I’m a great believer in story structure. Classic story-telling really appeals to something innate in humans and seems to follow a certain pattern… Campbell called it “The Hero’s Journey”… screenwriter Blake Snyder combined elements of that with Syd Field’s 3-act structure and came up with his “Save the Cat!” book for screenwriters, but that outline works for novels too.

PG has great ideas and a wonderful imagination. All I try to do is get her to focus on the main plot lines, so all the other great stuff ties into her central theme or dramatic question. The hardest thing for a writer, I think, is to know what to leave out.

2. lycan librarian - January 20, 2011

Okay — you aren’t a cruel taskmaster. I didn’t mean correct as in scold — more like as in propping up and pointing in the right direction. One of the hardest things for me to do is stay focused on the plot and central themes, so I am awed that you can do that. I always think I’m telling a story in a straight line, and then find out I have lead my reader into a maze. Anyone else out there have this problem?

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