Substance in Thought
I try very hard never to compare my work to the work of other writers. Attempts to do so have always yielded negative results, leaving me feeling very inferior, often dropping me into a writing void, where I can create nothing, think of nothing to say. That inadequacy is a difficult barrier to overcome.
I do like to read the work of others in order to inspire myself, see different ways of approaching things, maybe even coming across thoughts I had never considered.
When I was attending the University of Utah, I took a fiction writing class taught by a PhD candidate who exposed me to writing, writers, ways of telling stories that I had never considered. Eric was just a few years older than I, but decades ahead of me when it came to constructing story and writing in general. Not only was he an excellent and thoughtful writer, his critical abilities were outstanding as well. One of my favorite quotes on writing came from a conversation with Eric during on such critical session. The idea was a simple one, but drastically changed the way I approached writing fiction.
We were discussing and comparing writing fiction and poetry. I had written very little fiction as an adult. Most of my work had been in poetry and I had learned how to write what I thought was very tight verse. I rarely wasted words or overstated things. I paid very close attention to the flow of my sentences, keeping extraneous words out as best I could. Somehow I failed to make the correlation between that effort in poetry and the same effort in fiction. Eric said, “I don’t understand why writers fail to pay careful attention to line when they write fiction. It is just as important, maybe more so, in fiction than poetry”.
Constructing tight, clean, powerful sentences is what makes good fiction (good writing in general). Many people are fantastic storytellers, but very sloppy writers. I have tried to incorporate this philosophy into all of my writing. Sometimes I succeed, but I can always do better.
I lost touch (my own fault, I am the worst friend) with Eric for many years and just recently have discovered a blog he writes. I am again blown away by the tightness of his writing, the clarity of it and the sharpness of his observations. I want to write more like that.
Check his blog out. Enjoy the sentences. Tell me what you think.