Writing

Getting from Point L to Point M

I’ve spent the last two weeks working on a single scene in my draft. One. Single. Scene.

I have this picture in my head. I see how it was supposed to happen. I see the progression of events, and I know what happened afterward. I see the distinct body mannerisms, and I know how I WANT it to go, but I have been struggling to get it down on the page.

I remember a paper I had to write in high school. We were working through several stylistic exercises, modeling our writing after Hemingway or Steinbeck. Using shorter sentence structures. Or longer ones. No adverbs, no adjectives, or tons of description. I don’t even remember what the actual assignment was, but I remember struggling to get this picture I had in my head down on the paper.

I wanted my reader to see the entire picture I had in my head. All the little details. I wanted them to feel the rain falling, to smell the old lady’s perfume, to feel her angst and to see her sorrow in the way she sat and in what she said.

I don’t remember how many times I re-wrote that single paper. I do remember, though, that I was having the same trouble I’m having with this scene. I just couldn’t fine the right words. When I was done, it actually ended up published in some high school writer’s newspaper. I found a copy of it when I was going through some old papers the other day.

I remember putting so much effort into that piece, and being frustrated it still wasn’t the picture I had in my head. And yet, now over a decade later, it didn’t paint the entire picture, but it was a clear and poignant story. I liked it, even though it wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped when I started.

Yesterday, I finally finished my scene. It’s still not what I wanted. It still doesn’t capture the entire picture I had in my head. But (and here’s the kicker) I think I have given enough details, used enough of the right words, that my readers can paint their own mental pictures. We’ll see how many times I rewrite this section, but it’s finally down on the page. I’ve finally moved my characters from point L to point M and set up all those things that I know come next.

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