Sunday, September 09, 2012

Driving that Manuscript

One of my granddaughters on a catamaran
by Donna K. Weaver

As I've been learning all kinds of wonderful techniques (through books, conferences, blogs, etc.), I've begun to feel like I did when I was first learning to drive a car and was taking my exam for my license. My heck! There were so many things to keep in mind. Not only did I have to remember which pedal was for the gas and for the brake (shut up--when you're nervous sometimes your brain gets left in the driveway), but you have to remember to look for hazards in front of you such as other vehicles, watch for hazards coming from the sides such as pedestrians, keep from over correcting when you turn the steering wheel (gotta watch that adrenaline rush). And definitely not be distracted by the wrinkled old man--with his dastardly pencil and pad--wheezing so badly in the seat at your side that you're sure he's going to die any minute.

I'm learning that writing is a bit like conducting an orchestra. Whereas with a car, you need to get from Point A to Point B safely, the going doesn't have to be pretty. But in writing, it does.

We've got to remember all the basics like sentence structure, grammar, avoiding overused words, handling dialogue tags and beats, but we've also got to make the readers feel like they're there with our main characters. We must use words that paint a picture not just of the surroundings but of what's going on in our characters' heads, their thoughts and emotions. We need to utilize all the senses in crafting this symphonic work of ours. But just so you know, writing about sensory things for me is hard. I just don't look at my world consciously dealing with my senses most of the time.

Every time I learn something new, I try and incorporate the concept. It can be discouraging because you feel like your ms will never be done. But my one encouraging thought is that my new knowledge will eventually become second nature, and as I move on to my next project it won't be such an arduous process.

Kinda like driving. Whereas turning the steering wheel and keeping the car straight and in my lane was almost more than I could handle even when giving it all my attention, now I do it without thinking about it at all.

What about writing comes easily to you? Is there anything that you really struggle with?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm not sure if anything comes easy. Certainly not the first draft. I have figured out the fifteen beats from Save the Cat though. Other things, I still hear my critique partners correct.

dolorah said...

I still struggle with openings, and titles. I like this analogy.


Catherine Noble said...

Great to read someone being so passionate about the craft :) I totally hear you re: driving tests... I failed mines nine times before passing! :o