De-Cluttering: In “Real” Life & “Word” Life

Posted July 11th, 2012 by Julie Carriker

They say that life imitates art, or perhaps it’s the other way around, but there is definitely a relationship–at least in MY life and MY art.

During the past week Lee and I have decided to sell our house, and when we got a realtor, she told us “less is more,” (I could rant on THAT concept, but I’ll save it for another time and place), so we needed to de-clutter the whole house.  Personally, I LOVE our clutter, and much of it is tied to my creative process and is part of ME, but I do understand the concept, so I have been trying to pack as many things away as possible.

With thoughts of these excess items in our house, I opened the latest message from Deneen, my editor for Within the Rose Petals.  She said she was hesitant to say anything negative, that she didn’t want to discourage me in any way, but wrote that she had finally figured out why she was having trouble maintaining interest in the story, (She was having trouble MAINTAINING INTEREST? I shouted to myself, and tried to calm down).  Anyway, she’s had this trouble because there is just TOO MUCH detail about everyday occurrences, and that is slowing the plot down.  Basically, she indicated that I need to de-clutter.  Personally, I LOVE all the detail!  I want readers to hear, see, feel, smell, and taste what’s happening with Roddy and Linda; I want them to BE THERE, and I think this attention to detail is what makes that possible.  However, I can, sort of, see that everyone won’t see each moment as “precious,” as Deneen called it, as I do.  So I will try to let go of some of the words, packing them up until the day my “psycho fans” (a term I use with great affection, since I’ve been, I AM, one myself), cry for “More!  More!  More!”  Then I can, as one of my idols, Stephen King, did with The Stand; give them the “Definitive Edition,” with all those discarded words and phrases returned.  That’s why I save pretty much everything I’ve written.

Hmmm, I’m getting this same message in two areas of my life in a very short time span, so perhaps the Universe is trying to tell me something that I really need to learn.  As anyone who has read this blog, or anything else I’ve written, knows, I LOVE words!  The MORE the better!  Verbosity is my thing, and I’m PROUD of it!  I remember in grad school a professor handing out an essay test and saying, looking directly at me; “Be as succinct as possible.”  I grinned, shrugged it off, answered in my usual fashion, and still got my A.

I hang on to people and things just as tenaciously, and find it VERY hard to let go.  More deep psychological stuff to get into some day…

But I DO want this book, and all my future books, to be the best they can be, so now I am forced to take a good, hard look at my word choices, my phrase choices.  Deneen made the comment that, “you can say what you’ve said in five paragraphs in one,” and that hits pretty close to home.  I don’t want readers to have to force themselves through my descriptions to get to the action, or worse yet, put the book down in frustration, so I will have to address this issue, and put my personal feelings aside for a moment.

After all, if I’m writing just for ME then I’m journalling (or maybe blogging, since I have no interaction here, although the counter keeps going up, so people are coming to these pages, they just don’t comment—PLEASE, SAY SOMETHING, readers!  Let me know you’re out there!  Let me know how you feel about what you’ve read!  I NEED to hear from you!).  If I’m writing something that I want others to read, I need to have the reader first in my mind, and not myself.

Perhaps I’ve made some real progress here?  Perhaps I’ve shifted my mindset a bit?  I suppose it will only REALLY show when I go back and try to de-clutter my writing as well as I’m de-cluttering the house.  But THAT has to wait until Deneen and I have gotten through the whole book.

I’ll let you know how I do.

2 Responses to “De-Cluttering: In “Real” Life & “Word” Life”

  1. Deneen Ansley

    Julie, I am reading AND commenting! I’m very proud of you for taking a step back and looking at very emotional work from the perspective of the reader! It’s not easy, and I know that it has taken me YEARS of being away from Ye Gods! – The Story of Man before I’ve been able to look at my characters from enough distance to be objective.

    I see this problem with being objective as a GOOD problem to have as a writer, however. It means that we ARE emotionally invested in our characters, and I think that is the only way to write really great stories. Once we learn to navigate this, we will be able to produce MUCH happier readers, and that means readers who also love our characters, and who keep coming back to visit them.

  2. Julie Carriker

    Thanks SO much, Deneen! I have lived with this story every day for over six years now, and in many ways it IS my world, so yes, stepping back a bit is difficult. I know it is essential though, so I’m working very hard on it.

    It is quite a balance though, being in touch with our characters enough to write them truly, but also be objective enough to say, “No!” (but lovingly) to them sometimes when their story–even if it IS their story–isn’t something a reader will want to read.

    We are BOTH well on our way though to being PUBLISHED AUTHORS!!!

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