Continual Construction Zone
I’ll always be a writer with scaffolding around my brain. But that’s a good thing. In all I do, I should be open to expanding, building my abilities, and renovating my skills before they deteriorate and fall to ruin.
When I shuffle through the files of some of my early stories (even some that sold!), I wonder what made me think I could nail a series of thoughts together to create rooms of wisdom and wit.
For instance, there’s the cardinal rule of “Show, don’t tell.” In an early short story for middle schoolers, I wrote:
Kelsey knew Dr. Greeley well enough to realize he was trying to tell her something important. But she only had a few seconds to think about it, because the police telephoned.
Are you snoring yet? If I were writing that paragraph today, I would change it to something like this:
Dr. Greeley’s words rattled around in Kelsey’s brain. They pinged off one side and then the other, never stopping long enough to make sense. What did he mean by—? She flinched at the ring of the telephone.
“Dr. Greeley’s office.”
“This of Officer Clayton. I’d like to speak with Dr. Greeley.”
“Yes, sir.” Kelsey’s hand shook as she gave the receiver to the veterinarian. “It’s the police.”
(And then I’d change it a thousand times more.) 🙂
Have you noticed that reading a novel written twenty years ago and reading one written last year are two different experiences? While the former may have included more detailed and “pretty” exposition, the latter is going to have more action and personal impact, shorter sentences and paragraphs. Though readers love the beauty of the written word, today, people’s attention spans demand more emotion and a greater sense of walking in the character’s shoes, experiencing what they experience, and feeling what they feel. It’s called “deep POV” and something I’m still learning to master.
No matter what your job, the bottom line is found in Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (NIV) You can’t get any clearer instruction than that!
Have you ever read an early book by a writer, then another, later novel, and noticed the distinct growth in that author’s talent? Sometimes, the opposite happens. Have you ever thought an author’s earlier works were better written than their current novels?
Good post! I’ve read early books by now-famous authors that were much better than what they write now. It’s as if they are churning out books just to get them out on the shelves.
I think there’s a lot of truth to that, Edwina. It seems we spend so much time on that first book, getting it just right. Will we have the time to spend on subsequent books?