So, one twelfth of 2020 has passed, and have I written any fiction so far this year?
I have not.
But, I have continued to work on the Reeds story I’ve written about before.
My protagonist has a new name, which alone makes him feel a bit more alive and less of a cardboard cut-out. “Ranald” was only ever a placeholder. Sometimes when I need a name, if I’m in a hurry I just put “X” and worry about finding the right one later. Or, if I’m writing in my lunch break at work, I might glance around to see who’s in the office and borrow their name, which is what happened here.
He also now has a backstory. I wrote a page and a half and knew as I was writing that I wouldn’t use it all. It was useful to work out the extra information that shapes him as a character. I then stripped it back to what was necessary.
I also savaged what I’d previously written. I’ve cut about a quarter of the story, which always feels exciting to do. What gets removed? Repetition and redundancy.
It’s common (for me, at least) when writing to worry that the words aren’t doing their job. I fret that they won’t fully convey what I’m trying to express. So what do I do? I keep saying the same damn thing, in increasingly greater detail so the reader GETS IT.
No! All that does is to show a lack of confidence. It also irritates the reader. I can think of one world-famous author whose prose is so neurotically fussy I feel like screaming.
If you pick the right words, they’ll work. That’s what words do. It’s how we communicate. Say something once, and say it well, and the reader will make the imaginative leap. Trust your language, and trust your readers too. They’ll pay you back in the best way possible, by continuing to read.
Is it finished? Not yet. There’s a quarter-page that I need to fix. At the moment, after five drafts, that’s all that jumps out at me. But this is one of those pieces of writing where shifting something here makes something over there pop out, so I might not be done with it just yet. But I’m getting closer. Whether it’s any good in the end remains to be seen…