Friday, October 1, 2010

A Bit of Seriousness

Faye Progress:
26009 / 90000 words. 29% done!

I just watched part of J.K. Rowling's interview on today's Oprah, and I was struck again by how seriously she takes her craft—how much thought goes into each word. She thought she knew the final word of her novel before she even got there. She can remember certain lines that she considered writing into the work and later scratched. Much more than simply putting down the story, she put a great deal of thought into each word of that story.

What surprised me was my own dismissive attitude. Buried under the endless persistence and (nearly) unfailing determination to become an author, I have that traitorous kernel of belief that says writing is easy. It's something for fun and something for entertainment, and therefore should not be taken too seriously; the authors who dare to take themselves and their work seriously are guilty of unwarranted arrogance and vanity.

Yet, I know that the novels I enjoy the most are the novels that have had their sentences nitpicked over and reworked to fine tune the pace to perfection, have had individual words meticulously chosen and altered to find just the right tone in a single verb. The very best novels I've read are by authors who take their craft seriously.

Knowing this, I still cringe away from the idea of taking my own writing that seriously. At least at this point. In the first draft, I aim to write a perfect novel, but my larger goal is simply to get the story down on paper/screen. I want to flesh out scenes and dialog and enjoy the first rush of adventure through the novel. During the rewrites, though, I'll remind myself of Rowling's interview. Just as much as getting the setting, characters, tone, and themes right, word selection matters and sentence structure is vital. It's okay to spend an hour perfecting a paragraph or a week reworking the beginning a dozen different way (especially since I don't currently have a deadline).

Even more, it's important for me to remind myself that I take what I do seriously: I want to be a New York Times bestselling author. Unless I place importance on my writing, unless I respect the craft and the skill required to write the kind of novel that reaches bestselling status, I can't expect other people to take my writing seriously.

Watching the interview was an unexpectedly eyeopening and a much-needed reminder of the larger picture of why I write. Thank you, Joanne Rowling.

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