Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cart or Horse?

"The writer who cares more about words than about story – characters, action, setting, atmosphere – is unlikely to create a vivid and continuous dream; he gets in his own way too much; in his poetic drunkenness, he can't tell the cart – and its cargo – from the horse."

~John Gardner



I am guilty of getting in my own way. Too often I waste time laboring over words when I should just be living in the moments of my story. It's easy to do, especially for perfectionist personalities. I stop to edit, to play with a sentence, to nit-pick descriptions and dialogue. I type and then delete...type and then delete.

Gardner is right, though. If we want our stories to be vivid and continuous, to move forward and develop, we need to keep writing. Re-writing is editing. Editing is what we do with what we've finished.

Are you a poetic drunk like me, getting in your own way,

or are you able to resist the temptation to edit as you go?

30 comments:

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I totally resist. I love editing, so I have to force myself through that draft as quickly as I can, or I will never get through it!

BTW, you won a book on my blog!

Matthew Rush said...

Oh boy do I have this problem. Luckily that's what revision is for!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I kinda have the problem. I'll write the first draft, but I might tweak it a little as I write. But I loooove revisions, so I try to save most of the fun for after I finish the first draft (which I'm not fond of writing).

Jen said...

I'm a mess when I write my first draft, no one see's it except my hubby after it's complete. Revising doesn't even apply while writing at the beginning. I just write every emotion, thought and characteristic I've come across.

Revision has become a nightmare.

salarsenッ said...

True that! I'm guilty, not while I'm hammering out the initial story. It's when I edit. Ugg....

Patti Lacy said...

I follow something my mentor suggested. Do NOT go back and edit. DO read the last bit you read to establish setting, flow...and to make sure you weren't "out of it" when you last wrote!!!

Blessings,
P

Susanne Drazic said...

Great picture of the cart before the horse. I'm totally guilty of stopping and editing as I go along. Great info.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Um, poetic drunk here.

But I'm working on it.

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

Oh man, I wouldn't say I'm a poetic drunk I am very aware of all of the elements as I write. Making sure the inner thoughts reflect outward action and character dynamics flowing with realistic scenerios and authentic dialogue to boot BUT I OVER EDIT! So I just keep tweaking and never get very far but I'm working on just writing...so far not much luck but that's why I'M still a work in progress. Learning curves :)

DL Hammons said...

I could probably stand to be more poetic. Sometimes connecting the dots and hanging the shingles just doesnt say enough.

Tamika: said...

I need to go to writer AA! I'm drunk with words in a way that is more than halting but frightening!

Thanks for the reminder to just tell the story:)

JW said...

I definitely edit as I go but I am learning to just write and let it flow, returning later to tidy up. :)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I do what Patty Lacy does...I reread the last couple pages I wrote to get me back into the flow of where I left off.

Laura Marcella said...

I resist! I like getting that first draft written. It would take forever if I stopped to edit along the way!

Catherine A. Winn said...

I try to resist but it doesn't always work. My inner editor won't let me keep writing!

Cleverly Inked said...

Great advise I can see how you can get lost in the details

Theresa Milstein said...

This is so true. You're on a quote roll lately!

When I first wrote, it was all about the words. Now I pay attention to other things. It's funny because I've been working on my first manuscript, and it makes me chuckle to see how hard I was trying. Stephen King says just use the first word that pops in your head - it's usually the right one. Of course, I do tidy up afterwards.

Jennie Englund said...

Wow, Shannon! You won a book?!?

I empathize with your words getting in your way.

Might it be because you're a teacher?

Because you're always editing, and you even edit yourself as you write?

Jessica Carmen Bell said...

Poetic drunk all the way. But it'll never change. It's just how it works for me :o)

Tere Kirkland said...

I try not to be a poetic drunk, but sometimes those darlings just refuse to die!

Yet another thought-provoking quote, Shannon, where do you find these things? ;)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I don't see it as being in my way. I re-read the section I finished before I start on the next part. It helps me get into the character again and if I rewrite a sentence or two along the way, so be it :)

Carolyn V. said...

I've learned that I don't go as fast if I'm always editing, so I'm trying to learn to wait until I revise. But it's so hard!!! I love your new pic. When did you change it? It's awesome! =D

Deniz Bevan said...

Don't laugh, but I read that title as "Cat or Horse"
Guess I'm all edited out for today...

ali said...

This is a fantastic quote and post. So simple but so, so true - and not something we often really look at. Or, at least I don't! Thanks for putting it into perspective Shannon!

Vicki Rocho said...

must resist editing when I should be writing!

Kay said...

I catch myself doing the same thing! I'm trying really hard to focus on evoking a strong visual image in the readers' minds. It's tough not to overanalyze your prose, though. Still working on it.

And thanks for stopping by my blog! Glad I'm not alone in my addictions!

K

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Shannon -

I usually don't edit until the first draft is done. However, I won a free 15-page critique from an author. How could I resist? I'm incorporating those edits now and learning from them.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I get drunk with the story first, save the poetic drunkenness for later. :)

LOVE the quote! :)

Angela Ackerman said...

I hate revising, so resisting until the draft is finished is easy. But, if an idea comes to me mid-stream for something earlier in the book, I will go back and 'write it in' and worry about the transitions into the new scene and out again until after the draft is done. :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

AchingHope said...

My problem is I'm in so much of a hurry I send the whole cart and cargo over the edge of a cliff and as they spiral out of control that's when I can no longer tell the difference.

Definitely good thoughts to think about. Thank you! :)

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