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Towards a theory of writing

Thank you all for your good wishes on my previous post.  I’m back from a marathon weekend in Massachusettswith my independent editor.  We worked until two every morning going through the manuscript for Body Work, and all the flaws in it are now strictly of my own production.  While I was going through the text line by line, comparing what I’d written to how it had been rewritten, I realized I have a goal in my writing.

My desire is that the written word be transparent, so that the reader is within the minds and actions of the characters.  I strive to write in natural rhythms that make the reader hear as well as see the text.

Text has a cadence like music.  When I am writing action scenes, I use text breaks to increase tension.  The break is like a pause between measures of music; it arrests the reader’s attention.  Too many pauses, or too many uninterrupted phrases and the piece becomes monochromatic, banal.

Some writers, like the great but sadly late Donald Westlake, used short terse dialogue to good effect.  I prefer to have my characters in motion while they’re speaking.  I find “he said” “I said” on the page distracting to the reader’s eye, or at least to my eye, so I try to alert the reader to who’s speaking by the actions of the speaker.

Victorian novelists wrote long and lavish travelogues as part of their novels, but today we don’t have the patience for that.  Scenery has to contribute to mood or action in a thriller, or to mood in a non-genre novel.

Enough!  I’d be glad to know how some of you approach the written word, what works for you on the page as writers and readers.  I’m always eager to improve my craft.

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