i am flagging a bit. perhaps it is a kind of seventh-inning stretch. if there are two great narrative arcs at work, i am nearing the big finale of one, while at the same time building heavily on the second. all the while feeling just how far i’ve come (lots of looking over the shoulder) and my word count issues don’t help.
there is much received wisdom out there, about writing. to write what you know (hah!). to write what you feel, to write from your heart (as long as your heart is telling you to write what you know?) because if not the plot won’t feel genuine, the characters won’t feel real, the twists and turns not honestly reached . . . as if all of writing was not one massive act of artifice, as if you are not immediately distorting the world in the simple act of choosing to skip ahead from morning to night, from character a to character b.
and, more pertinent to me at the moment: that there is nothing said in 50 words that can’t as easily be said in 20, that you want clear, concise prose, with every word pulling its weight. a nice idea, and when done well it can be a pleasure to read. but not done well and you lose texture, depth, any sense of being in this world you’re creating: you’re left with a script, not a novel.
do they do this elsewhere, or is this an american thing? i’m not sure. but it is yet another example, to my mind, where the received wisdom and the mediocre products it engenders does a massive disservice to the general public. they can handle a bigger book; if anything, the more lost we can get in a work these days, the better. it’s the same with movies (see that recent n.y. times bit on slow film), the same with visual art which lately seems to be more about simpler line illustrations, rather than big, epic paintings. nothing wrong with quick and straightforward, but when it becomes a requirement of the market it starts to feel like our very culture is anorexic. depth, patience, care, detail, poetry . . . these things are not the enemy. so-called excess is more than OK, it can be downright delightful.