On Reading William Zinsser – Part 2

“Trust your material if it’s taking you into terrain you didn’t intend to enter but where the vibrations are good. Adjust your style accordingly and proceed to whatever destination you reach. Don’t become the prisoner of a preconceived plan. Writing is no respecter of blueprints.”  On Writing Well, p. 52

 Zinsser writes these words in Chapter 8 encouraging journalists and non-fiction writers to let their material lead them in an “unexpected direction” and not to “fight such a current if it feels right.” But, I think the words apply equally as well to novelists and short story writers.

 Even in my not-particularly-vast experience, I know that what I have planned for my characters isn’t always what happens to them. I learn something new about them as they and the story grow, and that “something new” takes them and the story in a new direction. In one WIP, I changed the voice part way through. I had started in third person limited, but my character was so strong that he got tired of being a “he” and decided to become an “I.” Free to talk in his own voice directly to the reader, he blossomed into an even more lively, funny and spunky character.  I would have missed all the fun if I hadn’t let him take over.

 The intimidating part was going back to the beginning of the book to see if it would work with the material I’d already written. I had polished those first pages so many times I practically had them memorized. Now, I was going to throw all those finely tuned words and take a risk with a new voice. A scary experiment, but it worked. The opening is faster, cleaner, funnier and tells a better story.

 Have you ever amended, erased, thrown out your blueprint? What happened? How did you feel about the result?


Do What I Love Month Comes Undone

Life happens. Over the last week and a half, my mother-in-law has become very ill and the time to write has disappeared, replaced by worry, visits to hospital and home, and the kind of tired that comes when life hits you upside the head and you just want to escape into sleep. And, of course, the other life goes on, too. Music lessons, making meals, laundry, driving my son to school, and the day job, all done during the most beautiful fall days you could ask for. So NaNo is done for now, and the story will wait. My family and I will be living in the “now” of life, today and every day, until there are answers and verdicts from specialists and a road map, if possible, for what’s ahead. A stronger, bigger love sits at the core of this life. I’m blessed to have it, blessed to give it, and blessed to recognize the gift.

Sadly, we lost my mother-in-law on November 21st.  We will all miss her very much.

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