Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Writing like myself

For the last few weeks, since meeting with a writer in residence, I've been giving a lot of thought to my writing style. I borrowed a library copy of Jack Hodgins' A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction (McLelland & Stewart 2001, ISBN 07710-4198-5) and read through it, just to make sure that the final draft of my novel is as good as I can possibly make it. I suspect professional writers could pick what I've written to pieces, but I don't really care. I've spent nearly ten years honing my manuscript, and it has come a long way in its improvement. If I go any further with revisions, I'll be writing to appease someone else's sense of style rather than my own.

To put it plainly, that won't work.

I found an interesting piece of Jack Hodgins' writing that explains perfectly why I think this is so:
I once complained to a writer friend that every time I start a new story my goal is to write it in fast, tight, clean, clear prose... but that once I get into the job, prose springs up all around me like a jungle: new people get into the act, the story becomes more complex and mysterious than I'd anticipated, all of the world seems to want to be part of the action. Less puzzled by this than I, my friend suggested that things could not be otherwise. "You were born and raised in a temperate rainforest. You have a rainforest brain, fecund and complex as a jungle. Don't fight it... this is not only inevitable but appropriate." (p.77)
Reading that paragraph was an "Aha moment" for me. Not because I was born in a rainforest... no, the exact opposite. I was born and grew up on bald, flat Saskatchewan prairie until we moved to Edmonton when I was nine-and-a-half. I've always been a prairie girl at heart, and perhaps that's why I write plainly, simply, focused on the plot rather than the description of setting or the use of alliteration. I like to read writing that is poetic, metaphorical or full of tricky literary devices sometimes, but that's not my style. I know that my writing will never be considered great Canadian literature because of it, but I have recorded a few stories that came out of nowhere that I really like to read (including my novel), so I won't apologize for not fitting in with the talented Canadian literati. I write like myself, and that's good enough in my books.

If you're looking for encouragement to write, Jack Hodgins' book is a good one, with many ideas and interesting exercises. But if you don't need encouragement, that's even better. Write for the love of writing, and "it's all good," whether literati think so or not.

1 comment:

  1. Good girl! Stick with what you know. Have you read Willa Cather? My Antonia is my favorite of her novels. She is American, but from the part of the US that looks a lot like Saskatchewan but warmer. I think you may like her. Great post...thanks for the advice...

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