Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Work of Writing

I don't think I'm lazy. Not really. But when it comes to writing, I have this feeling that talent is supposed to ooze out of my pores and flow across the screen or page. I expect that if it's good—if I'm good—polished writing will simply flow. When it doesn't work that way, I despair.

That's just plain silly.

Now that I've read almost every single word of Stephanie Klein's blog, Greek Tragedy, I can tell you for sure that's now how it works for her. Publishers may have sought her out, and she may have gotten a two-book deal out of Judith Regan without writing a single query letter, but that woman works at her writing.

During the editing phase of her new book, Moose, Klein gave readers a glimpse of what goes on behind the curtain. Looking for an improvement on a single sentence, she considered dozens of ways to complete the phrase, "lazy as a. . . ," eventually settling on "Susan." At another point, she spent nearly a day trying to ascertain whether chickens have hair. Turns out the tiny, hair-like things she saw on a plucked chicken were pin feathers. This information allowed her to change two words, which made her manuscript the tiniest bit more accurate.

Klein also tells of polling her friends to find out what they carried in their purses and googling 80s slang until she'd read nearly everything available on the web and still asked her readers for additional suggestions.

Writing is fun. It's compelling. It's also work. The only way to get it right is to invest the time and effort necessary to link words into sentences into paragraphs into stories. The only way to sell a book is to tell stories someone will pay to read.

It only seems like that should be simple.

6 comments:

Doubting Thomas said...

Um, pretty sure nobody who knows you is going to use the word lazy.

Lots of other words come to mind, but lazy ain't one of 'em.

In your very worst moments, "insecure" is about that harshest thing to be said about you.

riversgrace said...

Ditto. Don't know anyone who engages in projects the way you do, J. Who is it that read every page of her blog? You? Really? Sounds pretty committed and engaged to me!

Go Mama said...

There's good, and then there's marketable. And sometimes marketable isn't "good," but it sells.

But when good collides with marketable, now that's when things really explode! Isn't that the Holy Grail we're all looking for?

And aren't you the one who blogged about nothing happening meaning nothing had happened...YET. Meaning the proposal wasn't rejected, it just wasn't read/processed/decided/time yet?

Hang in there.

Michelle O'Neil said...

You make it look simple, Fannie...I mean Jerri.

Deb said...

There are many of us whose days are made when we get to read your words here, and who wish we had more of you to read. It's lovely that you give Stephanie so much credit. It would be lovelier if you could give yourself as much. Love you!!!

kario said...

Oh, Jerri! I am absolutely, positively in this same space right now. Knowing that I have (relatively) so little to do to finish the first draft of my book, but dreading the work that it will be and wishing upon wish that it would just open up like some magical space inside me and flow out.

Thanks for the reminder. Guess I'll stop reading blogs now and get down to it.