Monday, January 29, 2018

Not only am I writing a book once, I'm writing it twice!

Wrote the second chapter from zero yesterday.

Interesting in that the action wasn't significantly different from the first version. I probably could have gotten away with just splicing the previous version in; but that would defeat the purpose.

So even though it is the same events, they did come out a little differently; mostly in the "Telling Details."

"The Telling Detail is a word, phrase, or image that helps the reader “see” what you're describing. It must be precise and illuminating, and to some extent, unique. Its uniqueness is often what makes it so telling. It can be any specific detail. It can be a sight, sound, touch, taste or smell." Rachelle Gardner.

To me, the telling details are what make a book substantial, that make it read from sentence to sentence, that add verisimilitude to the story.

So I've had this theory for some time that the more telling detail you have, the better the book. (I suppose that there could come a time when it becomes clutter, but I tend to write sparsely in my first drafts, the better to get down the pacing and story.)

When I started, my process was that I'd have a vague idea of what I wanted in a chapter and I'd go ahead and write it. In the writing, telling details would emerge. I'm going to arbitrarily make up numbers to illustrate a point.

So say, in the course of writing a chapter, I come up with 5 to 10 prime telling details, which really hit the mark.

What I found as I refined my process is that if I thought long enough about a chapter before I started, I'd have 5 to 10 telling details already in advance, and then in writing, I still get those other 5 to 10 details.

Then I discovered that in a substantial rewrite, I'd come up with another 5 to 10 details, and by then the book has more heft.

What I'm realizing with these completely fresh rewrites is that I can add yet more telling details, and that I can combine the two versions.

So in keeping a consistent tone, in accumulating telling details, in having the plot and motivation worked out a little more, I think it gives the book more weight.

All I have to do is twice the work.

As I've mentioned, I'm trying to read a book a week this year. I'm also trying to read them with a writer's eye. I've read four books so far, though it is starting to feel a little like homework.

But one thing I've noticed--I can sort of tell when an author is winging it. That is, they aren't really putting in the effort, or just enough effort. There are lots of established authors who do this, big name authors, and I can tell. But as a reader, I trust them to give me a satisfying read, even as I know they aren't really working at it.

I don't think unestablished authors have this luxury. We have to prove ourselves every time and I believe readers have an intuitive sense if the author has cut corners or has just dashed something off without fully thinking it through.

So this double writing is in a way my effort to really put in the extra work.

I can't be smarter and deeper than I am--except by taking longer to write a book--different me's at different times, so to speak--by extending the process, by doubling up whatever smarts and depths I have.

I don't know if I have the discipline to do this. I've got another eight days of writing to catch up to where I was, so I think I'm going to accomplish it this time, but Wow. Not only am I writing a book once, I'm writing it twice!

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