Olivia Williams in Miss Austen Regrets - an excellent film about the later part of Jane Austen's life. I always like to think if she chose a book she could step into and live, it would have been Persuasion.
If My Life Were A Novel:
1. I could charge through to find out if I end up happy,
2. and then I could write up an outline and fix all the things that never made any sense
3. I could spend pages and pages on one delicious moment in time focusing on one or two details that send shivers down my spine
4. I could go back and change my words
5. I could make mistakes and know they'll probably be redeemed later
6. I could get feedback on every. single. word. event. moment
7. I could know what the other people in my life really think of me
8. I could relive the best moments over and over, and tweak them to make them even better
9. I could cut out all the boring crap where nothing happens, like cleaning the kitchen and laundry
10. I could have flashbacks where every detail is crystal clear and has something to do with an event that's just about to change my life,
11. and then I'd get rid of the flashback because they almost never work when I write them
12. Everybody would be amazed by my layers of expertly woven symbolism and metaphors
13. I could sum up my life in one really important blurb that makes me sound like the best thing you'd ever want to read,
14. and you could read me over and over again and keep me on your shelf
15. I would never die, even when my life ended
Who in their right mind wouldn't want to write a novel? But I think one of the most important things to remember when we put that pen to paper, or our fingers to the keys, is that novels are usually not meant to portray real life. They. Are. Fiction. Even if it's a memoir or an autobiography, we don't include the boring details that have nothing to do with the point. There must always be a point. Every scene, every line, every word needs to move the plot and characters forward. If it's something experimental or postmodern, there still needs to be a point, even if nothing happens or moves forward.
I try to remember these things as I'm writing and revising. My readers don't care what the room looks like unless it matters. They don't care what a character looks like unless it matters. No matter how important it may seem to you, or how vivid it is in your mind, please don't put it in unless it accomplishes something productive.
I've talked about this before on several occasions, but even for me, even when I hear it over and over, I still throw meaningless things into my work. It's probably why I can usually cut my 102-thousand-word novel down to 70-thousand. Stupid details are okay for me with a first draft, but after that, they've got to go. If I only I could do that in real life.
Question For the Day: If you could live your life like a novel, what would be the best part for you?
~MDA (aka Glam)