Sometimes Less is More

Okay, I realize that this is one you’ve heard before.  And in fact, I’ve already provided a more macro example of how this maxim can apply to a manuscript by sharing an earlier version of the prologue to The Herald’s Dark Progress, and explaining why, and how, it needed to change.

Here, however, I want to discuss “less is more” in the context of page-to-page writing, which is a very different thing.

Man carving stone statue
Again, NOT generally how I go about my writing.  But it DOES seem to be how many others do it.  And it may well work for you.

As I told you in an earlier post on my writing process, for me the standard “plow forward and come back” or “ramble and revise” or “spew/cull” methodology that most writers seem to employ (for the record, I don’t think any of them actually call it the latter) is generally the exception, and not the rule.  In fact, for me, the concept of “less is more” usually means not that I’ve included a bunch of extraneous text that I will subsequently need to cut, but that I have tried to pack too many ideas/images into too little space, and I will subsequently need to separate them.  Ironically, the way I almost always fix this version of the “less is more” problem, is not to subtract from my manuscript, but to add to it.  Or, as I described it in my post on the subject, I tend to “comb out” the text rather than to “chip away” at it.

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My Process: Combing through the Tangles

Hi there!  Remember me?  In looking at the calendar, I see that it’s been several months since I last blogged about writing.  I trust none of you were worried that I’d given up on the practice completely…?  The truth of the matter is that I’ve been so busy working on new material (both revisions for The Herald’s Dark Progress as well as a completely new project) that I didn’t have much time to offer any new commentary along the way.  Nose to the grindstone and all that.  As a result, I’ve only used this space to offer a couple of moment-in-time political comments, which will soon be outdated (and which probably 40-50% of you found irritating anyway).  I hope you will forgive me, both for the lack of activity, and for the non-writing-related nature of the few posts that I did share during that period.  What can I say?  Such is the life of a writer (a topic, by the way, that I plan to cover in more detail in a subsequent post).

But now, after a stretch that lasted much longer than I initially anticipated, I have finally reached a natural break point (having just sent out a bunch of content to my wonderful beta readers for feedback), and am once again back to tackle a new subject:

The writing process itself.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (author of The Little Prince, among other titles) on the writing process:  “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” BOY does that sound a lot easier than the way that I do it…

Or, er, mine, anyway.

If you research how other writers go about their work, you’ll discover that many (most?) begin by typing out a rough draft in the truest sense of the phrase, plowing forward from beginning to end without being overly concerned about rough patches, rambling detours, or even entire sections left blank.  As the author Shannon Hale describes it, they begin by “simply shoveling sand into a box so that later [they] can build castles”.  (I have to admit, I’ve never read any of her work, but I LOVE that quote.)  Then, only once they’re done with the unfiltered first take, will they come back to the beginning to revise, gradually perfecting both plot and prose over and over again, in pass after pass, until in the end, they arrive at a finished product.  For those who follow this methodology, writing a novel can mean running through quite literally dozens of drafts before finally declaring the manuscript “done”.

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