Torn in a million pieces. The middle ground in writing can be difficult to find.

Well, I’m finally back. I spent a few days in Washington, D.C. and went to the Smithsonian.  Pretty much all of it. This is why I haven’t been posting. I really can’t stress enough how great it is to go to one museum after the other and how many great ideas you can uncover just by looking at all the knowledge and experience stored there. But that’s not quite the point of this post.

The Buddha advocated finding the middle path in all things. Going to either extreme of something will only lead to problems and I’m finding that to be just as true when it comes to writing. One thing I’ve been finding is that I am still looking for a style. I’ve so far been to the two extremes of writing and am displeased with the results of both.

My first major writing project was actually more of an experiment or a practice exercise. After finishing an anime series I really enjoyed, I decided to expand upon the universe of the story line. This is called fan fiction and I have to say, if you want to get a feel for writing with the opportunity for near instant public feedback and no pressure, do a little. Pick something you like and write till your heart’s content then post it in any of the myriad fan fiction sites on the net. Looking back at the story I wrote, and I will not publish here since I will essentially be embarrassing myself, the word that pops into my head is “effusive.” Everything is too much. There is too much description, too much time spent inside the characters’ heads, too much of everything. It was an immature voice that pretty much taught me how to keep a cohesive narrative going and how to generate suspense. As a learning experience, and as an opportunity to entertain fellow fans of the series, I have no regrets which is something anyone who has an interest in writing must do: look at everything you write as a learning experience and to forgive yourself for transgressions committed in your novice state. If you get caught up on what you’ve done wrong, you’ll never advance.

My most recent novel is a vast improvement over the verbose and tortuous prose of my fan fic effort. Descriptions don’t trail on and the flamboyant use of similes and metaphors has been curbed. However, I’ve run into another problem and that is I don’t feel the characters sometimes. I do not know who they are because, in trying to eliminate excess, I’ve created a paucity of expression, I’ve muted the observations and thoughts of my characters. This is something that, as I continue to revise my novel, I am dealing with, giving free reign to my characters’ thoughts so that they will get to speak and tell us how they see the world. I find it incredible reading over the sections I’ve m modified in this way, getting that feeling of vibrancy, the feeling that this isn’t a character but a person who’s made us privy to his thoughts. This brings me round to the question of balance.

Part of writing is giving rise to a structured chaos. Human thoughts and feelings are not linear and easily traceable however, if we are to create a story, there must be some level of cause and effect, an economy of words and conservativeness of expression or else our imagination will pour out over the page and make the work unreadable to everyone but ourselves. Writing is a bit like a drug in that it just transports you. If you let it, it can put you in an altered state where ideas and words just flood your mind and end up on the page, but just because they seem to come naturally doesn’t mean that, in their unstructured form, they are necessarily at their best. However, if you don’t let the words move like water, then you build a dam in your mind and have to synthesize the words in an artificial manner.

I’m convinced that there is a border that you can walk though that cuts through both territories. It’s just that it can be very difficult to find the sweet spot where there is enough detail to create a convincingly realized world and enough restraint to prevent the story from being bogged down. Again, this is all part of the process of discovering what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully, as this novel turns the corner of its third (fourth maybe? I’ve lost count to be honest) revision, and I get a clean copy then a read through by multiple people, I will be able to determine what to keep, what to add more of, and what to jettison.

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