clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rocks and Shoals

At left, a wreck from the shallows as photographed by Phil Carroll as part of official duties for U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

There are so many hazards in crafting a solid draft.

We know the story we want. The story we write is somehow a negotiated settlement between our idea and the garbage that accumulates in our early works.

I'm working on an opening. The first few drafts - horrendous. Showy, imprecise, slow, almost melodic in their hypnotic disinterest to a reader.

Gradually, the drafts get better. Gradually, I decide how to introduce a conflict early; how to reveal some of the protagonist's desire and the threats to that desire; how to tie-in the initial character and world building with the larger conflict we'll live with for 300 pages.

It doesn't come easy. For every one good way, there are a myriad of poor ways of writing a passage. In our drafts, we find these imperfect approaches too easily.

There are gems - beautiful passages which do the job at hand wonderfully well. For each of those, three that don't do as much.

The old naval rules and regulations were known to sailors as the "rocks and shoals" for an infraction's ability to ruin a man. Luckily, there is the draft method. In effect, writer's have the redo option when not on deadline.

I have an ending. I have a protagonist - mostly. I have a conflict. I need a crisp opening. I want to share the opening with a couple critique partners. It's important.

The ones we care about are the hardest to start. If it is a story we've carried a while, the opening is delicate. By steady work, the good parts emerge.

Now to hope that parts I think are the good ones are not hidden reefs which my draft breaks apart upon.

Oil clams the waves. Ink might do that, too.

All of you cruisers, steer for deep water. More ink upon the waves. Lighten the load for the shoals.

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