Saturday, June 25, 2011

Writing with Scissors

We all have heroes in our lives - those people who perservere with grace when life has dealt them a difficult hand. My sister Donna is one of these people. Last night, she celebrated fifty years of living with diabetes, and while I couldn't make the trip to Thunder Bay, I was there in spirit. Donna flew to Ottawa to visit last weekend, and we spent Saturday in the Byword Market and roaming around the art gallery with her daughter Laura, who lives in Ottawa now. We stopped for tea at Memories in the Market where the above picture was taken - rather an appropriate name for the restaurant. I raise a toast to you, ma soeur.

I've been writing when I get the chance as I near the final stretch in my manuscript. After I finish the first draft, I'll spend a few months going through it, editing and fussing with wording and plot. I read sentences out loud with an ear to rhythm and honesty, rewriting lines that sound contrived or jarring. Every author has their own voice - an inner meter for deciding what rings true for them. It can take a lot of meticulous, plodding work to bring the story together.

The final book should be like ballet - appear seamless and effortless without a glimpse of the hours of work behind each production. If a writing passage looks like you're showing off, it needs to be rewritten. One shouldn't fall in love with one's own brilliance (tempting as this might be). Truman Capote said, "I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil". Cut with abandon and get to the guts of the passage. It gets easier to purge unnecessary words the more you practise.

Well, we've had brilliant, rumbling storms all week in the Ottawa Valley. It's been as if someone in the sky is opening and closing a faucet in a bowling alley. The plants in my garden are lying down begging for mercy. I'm extremely happy that I didn't take this week off work for summer holidays :-) Surely, the best of summer is yet to come.

1 comment:

  1. As an editor for 22 years, I so agree with you about using the scissors. Too many authors spoil a good plot, wonderful characterization, interesting setting, by writing too much. Trim, trim, trim is my mantra.