Sunday, December 2, 2007

Committing to the story and not to the words

I'm currently trying to repair a story, The Gleaners, that's been in my computer for the past four years. I've asked my fellow Juno author, Janet Lorimer, the author of Master of Shadows, to help me whip this thing into shape. Cause the woman's an absolute expert on children's books.

Well, she told me a lot: basics I already knew, the basics I had forgotten, and a whole ton of stuff I hadn't known or imagined. So equipped with all this new knowledge, hopefully, I'll buckle down and get this thing done.

We writers, especially those of us who love poetry, or who came to literature by way of oral storytelling, often have a battle with the words in our stories. Words are a tool. They are meant to serve us and not to lead us around by the nose, and yet sometimes they take total control. I've found that Inspiration is often more about information than about the way the story is told. The muse often spills out story information in whatever voice it feels best. Then it's up to moi to consciously arrange the information. In addition, if my Voice has been affected by certain kinds of storytelling, then in the editing, I have to be very aware of the bad habits I've picked up.

The STORY needs to be told. The thing is to separate the story from its styling. The story can NOT be changed but the words can always be changed to suit the purposes of the story: theme, clarity, chronological order.

I battled that problem with Wind Follower. The King James Version of the Bible was always in my ear. Whether I wanted it to be or not, it kept leading my words around. What resulted was stilted writing. I had to wrestle those lovely poetic words to the ground and tell them that the story was the main thing, the story was the king, and they themselves were nothing but servants to the king. In addition, to knock the KJV stylings out of my mind, I read Native American rhetoric, slave narratives, and Chinese classical poetry (not in the original Chinese) and that helped a lot.

So how do I fix this problem with The Gleaners? I guess I have to put myself in a cold editorial mode. I've got to ask myself: "Woman, you want this story published or not? Do you want this thing hanging around your computer for another four years?"

Then, career questions aside, I've got to ask the story: "If I was telling this story in another style how would I write it? Could I describe this exact scene using different words?" That'll be tough, because already I hear myself saying: "But there is no other way to describe this. I feel the power of the words, I feel the joy of my story when I read this section." Note to self: Puhleze!!!!

So, Gleaners, prepare yourself: I'm about to whip you into shape.

2 comments:

Miladysa said...

"I had to wrestle those lovely poetic words to the ground and tell them that the story was the main thing, the story was the king, and they themselves were nothing but servants to the king."

Good advice :]

CaroleMcDonnell said...

Thanks. Janet is a great teacher. -C