No matter how much thought and care I put into my craft, I keep finding more aspects of writing to master. That's good because it means I have lots of opportunities to become a better writer, but bad because, well, it's just annoying to discover that I'm not doing something as well as I could.
Right now I'm considering the way I use detail and pacing in narrative. This weekend I read Joan Silber's excellent little book, The Art of Time In Fiction. It doesn't directly address my particular issues, but after reading Silber's thoughts on fictional time and the organization thereof, I was able to better see the writerly problem I'm solving.
I tend to write almost exclusively in scenes, with few or no transitional or summary passages to connect the scenes. My narratives are very active, and the speed at which the scenes take place is pretty constant. Once in a while I will pause or hesitate, and the narrative will go into slow-motion--as it were--and focus on details. Some of this slow-motion narration is written during the first draft, but a lot of it comes out of revisions. I have a habit of reading through my drafts and indiscriminately asking myself "what more can/should I say about this?" If I can think of a way to expand a thought, I'll do it, usually by pouring details into a scene, expanding the thoughts of a character, describing something, and so on. Lingering, I think, is really what I'm doing. Imagine yourself walking down a city street, keeping a steady pace, looking at the shop windows. Once in a while something will catch your eye and you'll slow down and take a better look, or even stop on the sidewalk to stare. That's sort of what it's like to slow down in a scene and focus on details.
Anyway, my method has generally been to slow down and expand the bits of narrative that caught my eye and imagination as I went along in revisions. I really enjoy this and often come up with little moments that amuse and please me no end. And that's all great, but I haven't been using this tool with the sort of deliberateness I should have been. In other words, what I ought to do is look at my scenes and ask myself which moments/images/emotions in them are most important and in need of the reader's greater attention, and then slow down to expand those bits of the narrative. I've been adding details and increased focus more or less as it suits me, with no real method in mind. This strikes me (and my taskmaster Virgo mind) as sloppy, as poor craft. So my intention--if I can stick to it--is to watch out for the moments that require more attention and then give those narrative moments the attention they need.
It's possible that, writing by feel or instinct the way I've been doing, I've actually accomplished just what I need to accomplish, but I have doubts. It's also possible that I can't have fabulous and amusing or pleasing ideas to work into the narrative on demand. But this is the problem I've chosen to work on right now, so we'll see how it goes. Slowing down with intention, with an eye to the needs of the story and not simply as it strikes me.
So that's my craft issue as I embark on a new first draft. There are all the usual issues of voice and story, but now I'm also asking myself to concentrate on the line-by-line structure of scenes, which is not something I'm used to doing.
I'm also still trying to find a working title for the detective book. Right now I'm calling it "the detective book" but that doesn't really pop, you know?