As a writer, it has always been a struggle for me to get things moving in a story line. I’m a late bloomer and much like my woodcarvings, I had to learn everything from the bottom up. These things didn’t come naturally. I had to explore the wood, and now I have to explore the page. What can I create from that chunk of wood, and what can I create from that blank page? The final product for both has to be interesting to the viewer. So I set about trimming away the excess wood so that an image can emerge, gently tapping the sharp chisels with a mallet to refine and define the form I have in mind. When I’ve gone as far as I can with knife and chisels, the figure then has to be sanded until every flaw has been removed from the surface. The same goes for writing, trimming the extraneous words until the sentences flow smoothly.
Writing can be a thankless job, as there is no-one but yourself in front of that keyboard, clicking away and watching the words form sentences on the screen. The delete button works just like the sandpaper I use to smooth out the surface on the wood. Writing is definitely not like cooking. You can’t have someone taste it, and then you add a little more seasoning until the soup is palatable. And I’ve learned not to ask my friends to read what I’ve written. They don’t have a stake in it. The last thing I need to hear is that something is “cute”, a comment my own daughter made some years ago when I had her read one of my short stories. I realized then she probably hadn’t read it. The story was far from cute. And to add insult to injury, I recently had my feelings hurt when I asked a friend to read one of my manuscripts. His comment was that it was taking me forever to get to the gist of the story and the reader wasn’t going to stand for it. He said it looked as though I was just putting down sentences to reach my 65,000 word quota. Ouch. That harsh but probably well-deserved criticism made me wonder what the reason was I was writing for and it also made me realize I was trying too hard to describe the characters, the setting and the plot.
Where is the dividing line between too little and too much? It was taking a while for the action to get started, but without the character development, there is no action. So there was the dilemma. I was stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard spot. Just who was I trying to please? No wonder I was having a hard time. You can’t please two masters. If I wasn’t happy with my writing, how did I expect the reader to be? This is where you have to make a decision to either scrap the whole piece and start over, or place your ego in a holding pattern until you figure out where you want to go with the story. I firmly believe that good writers have to learn to look at their work objectively, and until that process becomes second nature, a lot of mediocre writing isn’t going to pass muster with the reading public. So, excuse me while I pour myself another cup of coffee and take a good look at what I’ve written here.