Saturday, January 02, 2010

Sculpting Words, Not Packing Play Dough

I've written over 33,000 words of a novel that, for all I know, may never be published. But I'm okay with that. I'm also okay with the excruciating amount of time I spend molding sentences and content to shape it into the story it's supposed to be. A friend of mine asked if my perfectionism was shining through (Perfectionism? Ohh, I'm so not there yet) or if I've reconsidered the publishing route. I'm not against publishing. If an editor asked me for a query—better yet, a request for full—I'd do the happy dance and hit the send button. However, I don't feel led in that direction, at least for the time being. I have too much to learn.

So why focus on the minutia? Why rewrite a chapter three times when I feel like deleting the entire thing? If I'm writing for "fun", why not just write something to get the story on paper?

Over the years, I've learned the story must be told correctly in order for the words to flow. People are often surprised to hear a writer doesn't have one-hundred percent control of a story—the character, or characters, often influence story direction. We may have a good idea of where we want to go, but our characters, their traits, motivations, and their actions (or lack of) come into play. In one novel, I had every intention of reuniting a couple, but as I learned more about the wife, I knew there was no way she would agree to return to her husband. This surprised me. I could have forced the matter, but the story would have sounded, well, forced. Consequently, I had to change the ending. Need another example? Watch Stranger Than Fiction.

Still, would I write the story with the same commitment if I knew it would never be published? Absolutely, and not just to make the words flow. If a sculptor had a vision for a lovely statue, but had no intention of selling it, would she grab Play Dough and start packing it together until it formed the basic shape? No, she would carefully gather her tools, and then spend time and attention to form and chisel the piece until the story and emotion surpassed the material she used. It's her creation, her baby, and she wants it to look its best. To be the best she can make it be.

That's what I want, even when I feel ill-equipped to do it. That's why I rewrote a chapter three times, and why I continue to tweak sentences until the nuances come through. It's the art of writing, and that art is bringing back the passion to my work.

Pour your best into whatever you love, even when it frustrates you. Even if you think you're the only audience you'll ever have.

And to you, Christian, whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

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