Friday, December 07, 2007

A critical eye

It's coming - the week before Christmas. I'm devoting it to writing. My new novel sniffs its conclusion. That's exciting enough, but beyond that I could do with the creative balance of writing for a while.
Teaching has swamped me of late, but at least it's kept my critical eye in good nick. I've been focusing on the structural elements of students' work. One general habit I'm trying to break in others is a tendency to string several sentences together. Another common one is the heavy usage of the 'I' word in first person narratives. We know whose point of view we're in, so there's no need to keep repeating it. I ask students to be alert to any usage of the past perfect tense, to challenge any such use of 'had' ... it's reporting on an event that has happened, and so the reader is excluded from the drama of the unfolding process.
All such stuff, and much more. Cluttered pages become fine prose just by removing words that aren't doing any keen job.
Then I come to today, when I'm typing up some early pages of my novel. Suddenly my editorial eye is slashing away more vigorously than on any student's work. Paragraphs that lead us nowhere are dumped. What a slack sentence. Out with it! How did that word get in here? It's pathetic. Slash. It's gone.
This is one real bonus of teaching creative writing. Looking at others' work all the time, casting a critical eye on what works as well as what doesn't, you gain a perspective that stems from an emotional distance. Turning back to your own work, that perspective sticks for a while. You're no longer an insider, seeing your writing how you want it to be. You see it the way it is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i like this play but a little confused about the stabbing body why water was coming out of the body instead of blood

6:05 AM  

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