I’m revisiting the draft of a story that I put away last summer having almost, but not quite, finished it. There’s 80,000 words of story there – the first such writing I have done – and I’m reviewing what is there after a few months of trying no to think about it.
When I left it the story was glowing with the dim red light of passion and energy that I had put into it and the same unconditional love that one affords an offspring. It was a masterpiece when I put it away last summer and in many ways I didn’t want to bring it back out again because I knew what would happen.
It is happening now and while I am still in love with my story and think that the whole thing hangs together pretty well for a first attempt, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the surface level. I suppose that’s quite a healthy place to be, if I just need to retouch the paintwork and put up new wallpaper.
What I notice now is what I didn’t think of when I was deeply entrenched in getting the ideas down; the way that I was saying things. That’s where I am now and I’m finding all sorts of lazy writing and clichés.
But perhaps I’m being too hard on myself to call it lazy: I was thinking about other things and getting that job done – I didn’t have time to look at the details.
Well that’s the job now and I find that I am a lot more strict than I thought I would be. I am a complete novice and I am still getting used to my own styles and expectations and who I am as a writer – I don’t know that yet – and I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse but I’m finding myself to be a stickler for detail and description.
In my story there’s a beautiful girl. Our young protagonists are both besotted with her and, to be fair, she is quite beautiful. But the first time that the reader meets her, through a brief reference, needs to be right and needs to give the impression that she (Jess, as it happens) is not just another girl; not just that stereotype that we’re all familiar with. I need the reader to go with that to an extent, but I also need the reader to know that Jess belongs to me; that she is my creation and, just like I wouldn’t want myself or my daughters to be type-cast, I want her to be that little but different.
That’s why I used the term ‘lazy’ because what I had done was relied on the reader’s preconceived ideas about what a pretty girl is; that the reader wouldn’t need me to tell them anything because they already had it. That’s why it’s lazy: someone, at sometime long ago had to stand up and have a go at describing beauty and no self-respecting writer today should try any less hard than that. The phrase that I wrote (and I cringe at it now) was:
“…he remembered her pretty smile and golden curls…”
How shit is that? How lazy!?
It is my mission today (I’m going to walk into town and look at pretty girls – research’s a bitch, isn’t it..) and try to figure out why, in my eyes, the smile is pretty and why the protagonist might be drawn to the blonde curly hair. I don’t want masses of prose – that would defeat the object, but I do want to get to the heart of it succinctly and clearly. I’m not asking to discover a phrase or observation never before written by man or woman; that’s not the point, but I do want to come to it myself.