Well, I’m still plugging away on that novel, and on vacation I found a book called From Where You Dream, written by a Pulitzer-winning author, Robert Olen Butler, who describes the best way to write as being from the same place you dream. If you can tap into your unconscious, everything will “thrum,” according to Butler, or in other words you avoid writing that sounds contrived. Everything will resonate with everything else because you have imagined it instead of willed it into being, which is essential for good literature.
The book is laid out like a transcript from a lecture series, which I love because it’s like taking the class on fiction writing I never got to take in college. Butler covered ways to avoid common problems in your writing by critiquing stories students in the class had written. I was having problems with most of these issues and needed help articulating what was wrong, so I loved this aspect of the book. Here are two writing problems he covered that really stuck out to me:
1) Summary–I needed to zoom in and give one specific example of what I was describing instead of trying to sum it all up, which is boring.
2) Interpretation–This creeps into a lot of writing actually, but the best literature seems to avoid too much of it. If I can just tell the reader what happened rather than what it means, they can figure out the meaning for themselves and are more engaged in the story.
I went back and completely reworked the whole story I was writing, and THEN I went back and started to re-imagine each scene, reorder them, and then rewrite each one. It was a big job, but I knew it was necessary, and fortunately it wasn’t too discouraging. I knew that every step was helping my story come through more as I wanted to tell it.
If you’re feeling stuck writing a similar piece of work, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. It may be just the ticket to getting you unstuck.