A better way to tell the story

Every time I lament (which is quite often!) about how long a process writing a novel is, my father, if he’s around to hear me, will say, “you know, Jen, for some authors it takes them ten years.

I cringe, curl in, and say “it better not take me ten years.”

I am not a literary writer. Once, I aspired to be one, but I’m not. I’m also not a genre writer. I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle. As a reader, I like my fancy prose, I like lyrical, and I like to think about what I’m reading. I love story, external action, drive. I am thrilled that more and more novels that are released are kind of this hybrid genre-literary style. And as a writer, I strive to emulate them.

Some time ago, I saw an author interviewed on tv (I can’t remember who), and she said it takes her forever to write a novel because she’s continually finding new ways to tell the story.

I didn’t quite understand what she meant at the time. It’s only after I began playing with structure that I really got it. Before that my editing consisted of prose, clarification, characterization, tension, stuff like that. Now, it’s about story. As I begin to re-write my opening for the Nth time, I think back to this author, always finding a better way to tell her story, and I’m reassured that there is an end to this road, there really is a grand finale, where the story is told as it should be.


17 thoughts on “A better way to tell the story

  1. I have two great passions: writing and food. I try to learn as much about both as I can and try to be as creative about both as I can. I write and edit to hone that craft. I cook old favorite recipes and new ones to hone that craft.
    But I have to finish making the meal. Otherwise I can’t get on to the next one. I can’t linger over dinner otherwise everyone will go hungry. I may not have thought that the dinner was the best I could have done but everyone seems happy. Maybe someone will courteously tell me to add more garlic the next time or go lighter on the cumin. Yet, everyone has had their fill and is eager to come over to dinner again.
    For me, it’s the same way with writing. I’m older now; I can’t afford to be the perfectionist of my youth. I want to fill my readers with something appetizing. I want them to be satiated. I want them to like it enough to come back for seconds.

    1. Does this mean in a few years I won’t be so hard on myself, HB? lol

      I guess the way I see it, we need to eat. If the kids don’t eat what I prepare, they strave…it’s happened….:)
      But, if a book is crappy, well, toss it aside, and pick up the next one!

      However, I do have a perfectionist perosnality, not just in writing, but in life. It’s one of my challeneges to overcome.

      Good eating, cooking, writing, and reading 🙂

    1. I’ll have to let go. I kmow I will.
      But I am still so far from the goal that I have for this novel that I can’t yet.
      I think, perhaps the problem for me, is that that goal keeps changing. I’m going to try to fix that goal in place..it’s just so hard me to be rigid in that way. Everything continually evolved, so yes, abandonded is the right word. So, how to do that without all the negative fixtures that comes with abandoning something…

    1. Cam, my mom does the same thing.
      When I was considering this last re-write, I discussed it with her, and you know what? She agreed it was necessary.

      Good luck!

  2. I’ve just ordered Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron, which I hope will help me simplify the process of finding the best way to tell each story.

    1. This book looks really interseting, Linda.

      The preview on amazon looks very interesting. I’ll download the sample to read this evening. Thanks for the info!

  3. A novel I’ve worked on for years started out (unintentionally) as a horror/mystery. I’m slowly and clumsily molding it into romantic science fiction. Even though I’m still pulling from the initial inspiration, it’s a different story. Hopefully, a better one.

  4. I know exactly what you are talking about Jen. Now onto my 3rd/4rth round of edits, I still find,not necessarily with the story itself but even with individual sentences and paragraphs, that there are better ways of writing them without losing the original message.

    I guess that’s what editing/rewrites/revision(whatever you want to call it) is there for, as much as we hate it! 😉

  5. Jennifer, it took me 13 years to learn to write. I had a lot of interruptions in my writing career that prevented me from writing. Its been twenty years now, and I am still learning. I don’t think you can ever learn it all. Maybe you’ll get there quicker than I did. You are not alone!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Bonnie!!
      I am always envious of writers that can spend solid hours for week after week on their writing, but this is not my life. And while it means I’m slower at it than some others, well, I’d be missing on all the other bits of life 🙂

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