Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tips from the Tops- on meandering

Top: Susan Bell from her book The artful edit

Tip: To meander is as crucial as to stay the course.

Context:  And I will quote her here, this is in the chapter THE BIG PICTURE - MACRO-EDITING and it is under the sub-heading of Intention:
The intercourse between intention and spontaneity shapes any creative act. We make a plan to more or less control our art, while life's vagaries continually urge us to ignore the plan and let our work respond freely to what's around it. To meander is as crucial as to stay the course. We discover, as we wander, new meanings in our work that we carry back to the narrative highway. It can be hard to know whether, at a given moment, we should stick to our plan or follow a whim. If you veer off the main route, you risk getting lost even as you make important discoveries: if you stay on track, you get where you are going but risk boring the reader with an intention too single-minded and obvious. As k yourself: Are you wandering in order to stimulate a work that's staid? Or to avoid the apparent tedium of moving straight ahead? In other words, are you being inspired or undisciplined? If it's the latter, force yourself back to the highway.

My Thoughts:  First of all - this is a delightful book. Gwen picked it up and accidentally left it here yesterday. I'll have it read in short order but I think I'll order one myself as I love the way it is written and it has bits of interviews with wonderful writers like Michael Ondaatje on the art of the edit.
Next of all - As many of you might remember, I grew up in a travelling family. My dad was in the air force so we were always on the move. When we weren't actually packing up and heading out, we'd still hit the road for holidays. Now my Dad was a shun-piker. Oh, you don't know what that is? Well, a shun-piker is a person who shuns the pike - the main road. He loved a good meander especially if we didn't have to get somewhere at a certain time. Sure sometimes we'd get lost but I don't remember ever worrying about it. We might not know where we were but we knew who we were.  And my dad is a confident, cheerful and resourceful person so we relaxed in our meandering.
I would like my readers to be able to enjoy the fact that I am a meandering shun-piker myself.  That is a rhythm I can employ in my literary fiction fully. The pace can be slow as suspense isn't nearly as important as developing a slow juicy story. In my mysteries I need to keep more to the highway or at least keep the highway in view when I meander off of it. The pace of a mystery is tighter than other fiction and needs a firmer hand. That's what I think. How about you?

my dad and my sis set out for a meander...

12 comments:

Clarissa Draper said...

I agree. It's smart advice. I think that's why the first draft ought to be written without edit. Just let the words come out. Then when you go through your second edit, fine tune the spontaneity into readable intention.

Helen Ginger said...

You have a great dad. I had a great dad, too, but he wasn't a shun-piker. My dad is a whole other story. I find that I am not a shun-piker either, but I'm working on that. I tend to say, okay, my character is here and she needs to get there, so we set out together to get there. The bad part is that after she gets there, I have to go back and set her to meandering along the way. I think it would be easier to let her meander from the beginning, then later take out the parts where she veered way off.

KarenG said...

So that is what it's called! My husband is like that and it's torture when you're in a hurry, but when not it can be fun.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Since I write mysteries as well, I try to keep on the beaten track. Of course, the occasional rubber chicken might fall across the path, but what's a story without the occasional rubber chicken?

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I can't wander too much with my mysteries or else the plot gets off-track, but I love to meander (within reason) when developing a character. But not everything that I come up with will be used.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great post that helped me to along the route, We are happy for all of the work in looking into and writing this blog site

Words A Day said...

I'm visualising the passengers/readers thinking their lost but catching enough glimpses of strange & familiar signs along the way to trust the driver knows where she is going!

Your father sounds wonderful.

Jan Morrison said...

Clarissa - write hot and fat, edit cool and thin!
Helen - I think as long as you know there has to be some meandering when you put it in is your style and choice! Probably linked to outliners and pantsers.
Karen - it is an art and that makes your husband an artist!
Elspeth - oh for sure - rubber chickens on the road, real chickens crossing the road, chicken road-workers - all good!
Elizabeth - Yep, I agree, but man those side-trips can bring out the most interesting bits...and I'm a person who has to write my back story and then take it out in the edit.
anonymous - once again you leave me puzzled and unable to respond as your comments aren't exactly English. Where are you from? Hey, don't go away, don't be shy, I just want to get to know you...ah rats.
Niamh - trying to trick me with a new pic! ha ha! Good image and yes, he is wonderful and I love him to bits.

Cozy in Texas said...

I stopped by your blog today.
Ann

Cozy in Texas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jan Morrison said...

Hi Ann - thanks for dropping by - do come again...

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, this was a great post, Jan. I've been coping with my meandering ways in an edit (where's this going, where's this going, where's this going) and feeling a little regretful for not planning better, but I am also READING something that feels CANNED because it has precisely the elements it is supposed to (and no whimsy or surprise). I think I should just accept and be glad that order can be instilled after (not that I'm a pantser, but I DO love a good side trip... often.