Tough love

It’s often said that if a writer’s heart isn’t in the words she’s putting down, readers will know when they come to read them. This is entirely true. Happily, having first readers and a professional editor, if I skimp on detail to get to (what I perceive as) ‘the really good bit’, there are plenty of people to tell me to stop shirking and give the whole story my full attention.

What is less well known is the contrariwise addendum to this rule: sometimes the stuff that’s easiest and most enjoyable to write is the least effective. Being excessively passionate and enthusiastic about what you’re writing can be a bad thing, because you’re too busy having fun to retain the necessary objectivity. More than once I’ve written what I think of as an absolutely storming story/chapter only to have its many faults rightly exposed by critters or editors.

It’s tricky. We have to love our words, but not be in love with them. It’s a lesson I’m experienced enough to understand intellectually but which, as I go through the line edits and comments on Bringer of Light, I keep coming back to. Practice improves, but never makes perfect.

Having said that, overall I’ve been relieved at how little my editor has found that needs changing. In one specific case – and this is what prompted this blog entry – I was delighted to find that a short but much-loved scene where someone gets their comeuppance in a fatal case of mistaken identity has survived with almost no intervention from the dreaded (if these days virtual) blue pencil. It’s good to know that one’s a ‘keeper’.

One Response to Tough love

  1. Kari 25 February 2011 at 10:02 am #

    There’s a section in Living With Ghosts that was excruciating to write — not because it was hard or anything (it’s a walk with conversation) but because it was just a bridge passage and I wanted to get to the more interesting stuff, and writing it was a chore. I remember ploughing through it and thinking ‘This is going to be rubbish’.
    It wasn’t: when I reread it some months later, it turned out to be one of the smoothest passages in the book: it’s still there, largely unaltered and it works. It’s brisk and clear and clean. From which I learnt that sometimes the passages I consider to be important may easily end up over-worked, and that sometimes just letting go and getting stuff down is the best solution.

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