Saturday, March 29, 2014

Craft versus Art.

Trying to learn to be a writer is a long journey that only ends where it ends.

While I'm rather later in my life to be a beginner, that is nevertheless how I feel.  I am a slow learner, so it takes me twice as long to learn how to do something as everyone else.  Then again, if it's something I want to do, I keep trying long after everyone else would have probably given up.

Anyway, I do feel like I've learned something about how to become a writer.  At least, how I've learned to become my kind of writer.

FIrst of all, I think everyone starts out with the "story."

I remember when my 7th grade an art teacher asked the class to go home and write a story about a picture that she had clipped out of a magazine.  This picture happened to be a rock column, a natural bridge, in one of the national parks.

I was up all night imagining this incredibly elaborate emotional story.

I woke up the next morning realizing I had no idea how to get that story down on paper and wrote something quick that got a passing grade, and moved on.

But I never forgot the emotional experience.

So later on, I had  a similar experience with my first book, Star Axe.  Again, I had all the emotions and story, but had no idea how to do it.

I think everyone starts with the idea of "art."  So they try to tell it as "art."  Most of the time, it comes out as hopelessly stilted and formal.

You know --- "ART!"

If they actually just tried to tell the story in a straightforward way, it would be better.

But then again, that isn't good enough either.

Essentially, to tell a good story you have to learn tricks to make it feel real.  To give the illusion that it is real.

This is what I call the "craft" of writing, and it is a never-ending process.  As I say, I'm a slow learner and it take me forever to learn what some people learn how to do early.

So then the learning process becomes learning the "craft" to tell the "story" effectively.  As I say, a never ending process.  That's where I'm at now.

But in the process of writing The Dead Spend No Gold, I'm learning something new.   I'm learning that craft is not enough either.  That -- in the end -- you have to bring the "art" back into it.  When I wrote Led to the Slaughter, the story was intrinsically so powerful that I could tell it in a fairly straightforward manner and it would be effective.  The story was so good that all I needed to do was "craft" the story and it would work.

Nothing wrong with that.  It's a very good way to learn.

But with The Dead Spend No Gold, the entire story is completely imaginative -- besides the basic background.  Simply crafting the story isn't supplying the emotional payoff that I want.

So I need to add the poetic atmospherics.  I need to do some "art" to really make it work.

Which is fine.

When I say "art", I'm talking about the impulse.  I'm not saying I am necessarily succeeding.  But the adding the poetic way of saying things, of trying to find a phrase that goes directly to the point, the trying to raise subtle emotional responses in the way you describe things -- these are all things I'm attempting to accomplish.

I'm 2/3rds of the way through, and this is the crucial part of the book.  I have to evoke an atmosphere of dread and horror to make the book succeed in supplying an emotional catharsis.   And the only way to do this is through words -- through art.

So I'm letting myself go crazy on the poetic side.  Trusting that I'll be able to pick which parts to use to be effective.

And learning again, that this is a never-ending learning process. 

No comments: