Fragment of an e-mail I…

Fragment of an e-mail I got today:

"...thank you for all the play-by-plays you gave while working on your novel. 'Add a scene here,' 'Add some tension there.' makes it all seem doable."

This is something that wasn't clear to me before I started writing this novel, I think. And I'm not sure I can articulate it properly now. But the thing is, if you're in literary circles, or aspiring to them, I think there's an unspoken assumption that great writing comes from some sort of intuitive inspiration, or very deep thought. Not the kind of plodding analytical constructive thought that you have to do when you're figuring out plot and structure. The latter seems very mechanical, the realm of hackwork, formulaic.

I think even though I enjoy quite a lot of formulaic fiction, I did have this dichotomy in my head, this assumption that writing "literature" was a different process. And when I went to write, or rewrite, I was really hesitant to do what felt like very mechanical writing, figuring that it would never lead to beautiful or great writing. This was part of what terrified me about novels.

But the thing is, that at least for me, working out the mechanics of plot and tension and structure (in a very conscious and analytical way) is manageable and functional -- and I found that *while* I was doing that, a space also opened up for whatever cleverness and humor and heart and insight and beauty and depth I had within me. The mechanical served as a necessary framework for the intuitive.

Does that make sense?

2 thoughts on “Fragment of an e-mail I…”

  1. “The mechanical served as a necessary framework for the intuitive.”

    That’s certainly true of mathematics. It is reassuring, somehow, that it is true for fiction writing also.

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