Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Simple Guide to Using Poetry as a Guide for Your Prose

[Sorry for not updating today. I had plans but I had trouble with sleep]
If there is an official terminology for what I describe here, I do not know it. When in the midst of inspired writing, I let everything go. I write to the spine of the story most often whether it is main plot (or storyline), or subplot (etc), unless the inspiration comes during editing (which I treasure beyond gold) and centers around a specific scene.
When my inspiration comes in the wholesale form I am aware I have a lot of editing to do to compress my prose. I tend to write in a wide open style using way too many words to describe a simple thing or action. It looks good on my word count, but I know I will be reducing the inspired work to one-third or less.
When I go back to my work for editing my mind goes into free verse mode.
John Holcombe describes free verse this way: "When free verse lacks rhythmic patterning, appearing as a lineated prose stripped of unnecessary ornament and rhetoric, it becomes the staple of much contemporary work. The focus is on what the words are being used to say, and their authenticity. The language is not heightened, and the poem differs from prose only by being more self-aware, innovative and/or cogent in its exposition. "
I have to avoid the poetic self-awareness, but otherwise I am trying to reduce, compress if you will, my meanderings into a compacted version with single words that could convey the meaning of several sentences. If you have read any of my first drafts (of which I have posted a few) you have witnessed my wordiness. I am not so worried in didactic writing, such as this post, as simplicity and repetitiveness enhances the learning experience.
There is no need to discuss my inspiration during the editing phase as authenticity and innovation explode from my, otherwise clumsy, fingers.
Compression does horrible things to my word count, but by the time I am editing word count no longer has meaning. In fact, during the first draft I use it simply as the only sensible metric available to envision progress. As Holcombe says "The language is not heightened..." In that I take it to mean that one doesn't reach out for esoteric phrases that require a dictionary and thesaurus to read.
To me, story telling is all about drawing in the reader so that they can vicariously feel the emotions of the characters and empathize with thier predicaments. To be pulled in so deep that their world, filled with their own troubles, disappears for a while and they are carried along by the river of your story.  [And , yes, I start sentences with prepositions way too often :-) But awareness of your flaws is the first step to overcoming them.]