Staying Fresh

Now and then a scene just comes and hardly has to be altered — it starts fresh and stays fresh. That’s nice of course, but it’s not that common — or not for me, anyway.

I keep multiple drafts backed up and often revisit early ones to try and salvage material as the needs of the story force changes on the writing. I’m all too capable of wandering miles away from a first draft then coming back closer to it after realising I didn’t need to wander so far — but I probably needed to see what was over there in order to decide to come back. (And I might find something useful over there, too.)

I always fear that redrafting will produce a laboured product — maybe an odd fear for someone who likes fancy language, but there’s fresh fancy and stale fancy. The reader’s going to find it how they find it, but it has to seem fresh to me. I like to keep dialogue pretty close to its original state, if plot permits. Sometimes the characters come up with lines that are obviously better, but I seldom feel compelled to extensively revise dialogue. But I almost always rewrite descriptions, sometimes many many times. Sometimes the right words don’t come until I’m tired or doing something else. And I find that action scenes can ask for a lot of revision, though that’s a bit different as it’s as much about choreography as aesthetics. When I was writing TEC I did a fair bit of climbing around on furniture trying to work things out.

I’ve been redrafting this story a lot. Additions to plot give me no choice. However much the story may be improved, I always feel a certain regret for the lost first draft. But onwards and upwards. I’m enjoying it.

Back to dialogue for a moment — I was having trouble writing some lines. Then I imagined Yul Brynner saying them, and some better words came. Whether it was the added persona or the cadences of a distinctive voice, something helped. So next time I’m stuck with lines I’ll borrow an actor.

One thought on “Staying Fresh

  1. I apologize if I am bothering you. But i am about to finish a novella that you and Katherine Dunn are the main inspiration for. And I was wandering if you would read it if I sent you the pdf. I understand if you are too busy or if the comments section is a inappropriate place to ask this of you. It’s just I have been writing it for almost five years and I would like to know what you think of it. It is titled The Prophet Coffin; or, bumming cigarettes on judgment day. It is a romantic comedy about a young man named Joseph Bishop who sleeps with his mother Kristin Tzara and as a consequence ends the universe. The grammar may not be the best but I am self educated and quite aware of my failings but I do think it may be able to make you laugh. I will apologize again if I am being inappropriate, just let me know if your interested and I will send it to you.

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