Fast writer or slow
I finished reading Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons last week, and called up a Russian friend to suggest maybe she start a little book club on Russian literature for some of us. She said she loved Turgenev because he was a stylist, like Gustave Flaubert.
She said that Dostoyevski's writing lacked the polish and style because he had to write fast to pay off his gambling debts, while Turgenev was independently wealthy so he could take his time.
Critics say Turgenev's novels have great proportion. That got me thinking about what Dee wrote this morning about the architecture of a story. Check out her post below.
There's a story on the cover of a recent writing magazine sitting on my coffee table about deciding when to ditch that half a novel you've got written and start over.
That leads me to ask some questions, to build on what Dee wrote this morning.
Would you prefer to be a fast writer, writing to deadlines? Or would you prefer to have all the time in the world to polish?
I think I'm more of a Dostoyevski-type fast writer than a Turgenev-type slow writer and stylist. But when I am forced to polish by lots of time or circumstances like rejection, I see tremendous improvements with my work when I polish. But the polishing aspect I find really slow.
And on laying the foundations, your story architecture? Do you lay it out ahead of time? Or do you write and write, then go back to figure out the architecture? Or do you do a combination of both?
I usually have some basic architecture, like a cement slab and some posts and beams. But not much of a blueprint. My stories can develop new slabs and windows and decks in strange places. But I think I make a lot of work for myself that way, because a lot of stuff that gets written has to be thrown out when the structure emerges and the extra slab looks like a paved parking lot instead of a front lawn. Yet somehow the writing, the leaning into it and letting it gush out, is one of the only ways I can get a handle on those semi-conscious or unconscious metaphors, connections and deep, mysterious structure that gives a story life and uniqueness.
After the draft, then, comes the treasure hunt. But it also opens up the kinds of dilemma's Dee wrote about this morning. Decisions. Choosing the architecture. Defining a character. Figuring out motivations. Heightening the conflict. That's hard work, and my writing gets slow again because decisions close off options and have ramifications all the way through the story.
One thing though, until I know what the structure is going to be, I don't tend to spend a lot of time interior decorating.
Here's a beautiful description from Fathers and Sons.
SIX MONTHS PASSED. WHITE WINTER HAD SET IN WITH THE CRUEL stillness of cloudless frosts, with its thick crunching snow, rosy hoarfrost on the trees, pale emerald sky, wreaths of smoke curling above the chimneys, steam emerging from momentarily opened doors, with those fresh faces which look bitten by cold, and the hurried trot of shivering horses. A January day was drawing to its close; the evening cold pierced keenly through the motionless air, and a brilliant sunset was rapidly dying away. Lights were burning in the windows of the house at Maryino; Prokovich in a black tail coat and white gloves, with an air of unusual solemnity, was laying the table for seven.
Please check out my blog at at www.deborahgyapong.com so you can see the before, because soon I'll be displaying a new blog design by Natalie Jost. And check out the new articles posted at thedefilers.ca.