The World According to Renee

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The Art of Deletion

A couple of days ago, I was very excited to hit 76k words in my manuscript. Hooray! Cake and champagne for everyone!

As of this morning, I’m sitting just over 74k words. Oh no!

When I wrote the first draft, I deliberately put in things that may prove useful plot points later. A hint of subplot that might be interesting. A character backstory that may have some useful narrative purpose.

It was these bits that I deleted, almost 2000 words of. They were scenes that didn’t belong, didn’t make sense, or didn’t further the narrative.

This is the art of deletion, the first step in editing. By the end of the first draft, you should have a pretty clear idea what the main storyline is and where your characters fit into it. By the end of the second draft, your narrative should be clear. Anything that doesn’t add to this narrative should be deleted, even if it is your favourite scene or a special moment with your favourite character.

If you listen to the Director’s Commentary for The Sixth Sense, you’ll hear director M. Night Shyamalan talk about a scene near the end that he edited from the finished film. He says it was his favourite scene, but it didn’t forward the narrative, so it had to go.

So my little celebration about hitting 76k words was short-lived. I can always have another celebration when I hit 76k words sometime next week.


January 10, 2019 Posted by | Writing Journey | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Not Enough

I’ve just found my new favourite book: Story by Robert McKee. I’d like to say I came across this gem while poring over wares in a secondhand book store, with the powdery, sweet smell of old pages caressing my nostrils as I search for literary perfection. Truth is, I bought it from eBay as textbook for my unit next semester. 

I’ve never been so excited to read a textbook. Since Monday, the book has been teasing me, willing me to open it and absorb wisdom. This morning, I relented. I sat in the winter sunshine with a highlighter and let my brain absorb the awe. 

I’ve said many times that you don’t need to be a great writer to be a successful one. Judging by the shit movies that Hollywood churns out year after year, you don’t even have to have an original story. This book argues that the only thing you need is creativity. You don’t have to be a good speller (I disagree), but you do need a story. Not just an observational journey, but a deep understanding or questioning of Truth. That Truth can be anywhere: slice-of-life, fantasy, anthropomorphic animals… This Truth is what drives humans and enriches lives, both of the characters and the audience. 

I’ve discovered I’ve made a novice mistake: relying solely on experience the work of others who inspire me. Instead, I should be learning my craft (which, incidentally, is why I disagree that a good writer can be a bad speller. You can’t be a good builder if you can’t use a hammer). 

This is probably the first of many posts in which lightbulbs flash over my head as I learn to set creativity free instead of keeping it rigid and locked in a cage along with everything I have ever read. 

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment