Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hamster Wheels Are Not Yet Stories

A favored stimulus/response mechanism for you comes at times when you receivev editorial  notes on something you've written.  The backstory to this revelation resides in your belief that you've gone through a manuscript enough times to have caught the anomalies, inelegance, and, to be severe in your bluntness, the manuscript contains your belief that any ambiguity or question raised in your text is intentional.  There--you've said it.  The ambiguity is a part of a desired effect.

Those are your intentions.  Now, as you skim through editor notes, your eye will catch a suggestion for another example or a wish for some attribution.  So far, nothing out of the ordinary.  Nothing is out of the ordinary until you come to the kind of query or suggestion that turns you into the equivalent of Lance Armstrong, shooting up some enhancement substance.  How, you wonder through the rising cholers and blood pressure, can that not be clear?  You read the query again, then the indicated text.  Sure enough.  The editorial query was justified.  You could have been clearer, pellucid, if you will.

Such discoveries are at the top of your pleasure-of-discovery list.  Some day, perhaps, you will deliver a manuscript of the sort you deliver when you are the editor, not the writer.  Yet, perhaps not.  No matter, that is, no matter if you go over the material to the point where you can no longer see the needful detail calling out its woeful lack of specificity.

You enjoy the feel of a clean page, one where the narrative thrust seems to take you by the hand, then lead you through the loops and whorls of the fingerprints of logic, building an effect with fact and cadence and voice, leading to the fewest possible conclusions.  There is a sense of satisfaction, of you having cleared your metaphorical throat of ahems and er and um, taken a sip of water or coffee, then gone on to seek out all your habit words, those words such as and, thus, accordingly, and seeming to, or, worse yet, the adverbial seemingly.

At one time, years back the discovery of such things was occasion for discouragement.  Would you ever find your way to clean pages? Would your manuscripts stir in copyeditors and fact checkers the sense of, oh, oh, here comes himself, better watch out.  

Times have changed.  Of course you hope to turn in clear, clean copy,  Of course your focus on such activity enhances your eye for catching such things, possibly even catching them before you have the chance to set them down.  But now, the fact of another pair of eyes, looking as well to have your back, is a call to the battle cry of watching things to a closer degree yet.

Since you began making these specific notes, another opportunity presents itself to you.  What, after all, are such notes for if they are not to be gone over?  Gone over for what?  Gone over, for one thing, an accelerated sense of logic in development.  Although the gloves are off when it comes to riffing and you find yourself seduced away from your main purpose because of a memory you have triggered or because of an unseen connection among disparate concepts, you look for ways to more direct, effective transitions.  You look for potential building of themes and your hopes of resolving them to some degree by the last paragraph.

You look also for repetition of thematic material, not from a standpoint that repetition is fatal or even a flaw, rather as a way of keeping pace with subjects of consistent importance to you.  Two such repetitions here within these blog paragraphs are risk and consequences.  You're pretty consistent in your regard for them, welcoming them to the table whenever they appear.

In what may be the most significant theme of all, story intrigues you the most.  This is so because of the significant number of times a narrative comes rushing out of you, impressing you with its urgency to be told, but impressing you with every bit as emphatic a sense that it has emerged not yet story.  This awareness used to effect you with the same sense of dismay that you were doomed to produce dirty copy.  You call yourself a story writer, yet you cannot always see how some of your narratives are something less at the moment.

Setting things aside is an important key.  The first things you look for on return to an early draft project or random notes or these blog paragraphs are the sources of energy and interest.  Thus another exciting discovery, a few paragraphs of dialogue between two or more characters, clashes you set down in some flurry of enthusiasm.

Does the enthusiasm still flutter?  Does it call out to you, give us the next step?  Get us off this hamster wheel on which you have left us.  Call off your daily routines.  Listen to us.  Listen.

If not, what can be done

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