For the past two years I've been working on a children's book entitled The Mighty Carrot. Because of this project playwrighting has often taken a back seat and I often feel like I'm starting all over again as I tackle this very different form. As a playwright I know dialogue. This story has none (at least not as such). And tackling narration has been a challenge (what, you mean people want to know what everything looks like???).
A little while back I finished the fourth major draft of the story, put it aside, and then over the past few weeks picked it up to tinker with it again. And I'm starting to feel the light at the end of the tunnel.
I don't know how to explain how I know when a piece is nearing its end. There's just something deep down that says, "Aha! This is what this story should look like!" The sense that you're finally seeing in the words what you knew the story was supposed to be all along but couldn't quite put your finger on. There are tweaks and polishes left to come, but I'm starting to see in the shape what the story was always meant to be.
It's been a struggle learning how to write all over again, how to tackle a story in book form where I can't rely on the designers to set the scene, the actors to infuse the characters with life. But when I'm stuck on an awkward sentence, on a moment I can see in my head but can't quite find the words for, I pick up The Tale of Despereaux. I find a random page and just read the words and I am struck by how beautiful the writing is, and how simple.
Simplicity is not, in my view, a negative. When I'm struggling with a moment, it's usually complexity that trips me up. I try to pack too much in, to say far more than needs to be said. Writing, I continue to learn, is as much about what's between the words as in them. When I can find the one thing the moment needs to be about and let go of the rest, that's everything starts to take shape.
There is still a lot of work to be done to make each and every moment shine, to remove the clutter. It's a struggle, and so I pick up Despereaux when I need to remember what that looks like. And bit by bit, word by word, it's getting there.
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