I almost missed the first anniversary of this blog as I dream the end of this book (The Hero’s Wife). First draft is due at the beginning of July!
But I’ve grown rather fond of this blog, and my readers, so I want to mark this occasion. Happy Anniversary, A Writer’s Retreat!
I called it that because I wanted to talk shop, all the things I love to talk about with fellow writers (hence the delight of attending the Historical Novel Society conference later this month) and readers. For me it’s rather like the meditation retreats I also love, the silence, the pause for reflection.
This year I’ve been reflecting on just what it is I’m after in my writing, what holds my interest. I’ve read a few writing books, something I rarely do. Two books I highly recommend: The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long as It Takes by Joan Silber, and Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want To Write Them by Francine Prose. I’ve enjoyed pondering the issues in each–while reading Silber’s book I was exploring how to write a historical novel about a particular person without hitting on every significant moment in the person’s life, how I might play with time. With crime novels it’s easier to decide what’s significant, but when the topic is a person’s life, well, I’m challenged by the shorter books publishers want these days! I found her book very helpful.
Prose’s book covers all facets of writing fiction, and I’ve used it to inspire self-reflection–what do I love to read, what do I love to write. More about that in months to come.
Just to say that I’m freshly inspired and invigorated–or, we are, Candace is plotting the 11th Owen Archer and pondering a way to write a standalone about Maggie Kerr, and Emma is pretty sure who her next subject is and what she wants to explore through her.
I’ll leave you with this wonderful passage Prose quotes, by Isaac Babel. Pertinent to one who’s about to start revising.(pages 263-64 in the book)
“I go over each sentence, time and again. I start by cutting all the words it can do without. You have to keep your eye on the job because words are very sly, the rubbishy ones go into hiding and you have to dig them out–repetitions, synonyms, things that simply don’t mean anything….I go over every image, metaphor, comparison, to see if they are fresh and accurate. If you can’t find the right adjective for a noun, leave it alone. Let the noun stand by itself. A comparison must be as accurate as a slide rule, and as natural as the smell of fennel….I take out all the participles and adverbs I can….Adverbs are lighter. They can even lend you wings in a way. But too many of them make the language spineless….A noun needs only one adjective, the choicest. Only a genius can afford two adjectives to one noun….Line is as important in prose as in an engraving. It has to be clear and hard….But the most important thing of all…is not to kill the story by working on it. Or else all your labor has been in vain. It’s like walking a tight-rope. Well, there it is….We ought all to take an oath not to mess up our job.”
A tall order!