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The writer will see you now

I once heard a writer on a panel say, in all seriousness, “Why are people so sure they can sit down and write a book? You wouldn't expect to be able to do brain surgery the first time you tried it.” I like writers. I consider myself a writer, but I have to say writing is not brain surgery. For one thing, no one dies if you get it wrong. For another, the graduation between writing well and writing badly is a sliding scale with an infinite numbers of points on it— as opposed to say, “patient survives and is not paralyzed” versus “dead patient.”

I think mostly the guy was just feeling the lack of respect that comes from writing genre. He wanted to think that writing a book is as hard as removing a tumor from someone's frontal lobe. But the fact is, the act of putting words on paper is something almost everyone learns how to do, even if they never try to write a book. Most new writers might produce poor to middling' work the first few books, but there are some who sit down and write a masterpiece the first time they try. They are few and far between but they happen. Ever heard of any brain surgeons who skipped medical school?

I thought of this because at the moment, I am re-writing an older book that my writing group gave me some new ideas for, and in some ways, it is like surgery— not brain surgery but more like multiple organ transplants. I'm moving the guts of the story around and grafting on a few new parts while amputating others. I have to figure out which parts to keep, which to move, and which to toss, and then create in some new chunks to stitch it all together in a way that results in a live patient— er, story. In some ways, it's painful; I wish I had an anesthetic.

But it's still not brain surgery.





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Comments

bogwitch64
Jun. 10th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
I think I must be a sadist...or a masochist, depending upon how one looks at it. I enjoy the revision process, especially the cutting part. Maybe because I'm looking at the shininess underneath rather than the slop on the operating room floor?

I do understand the panelist's lament, though. Maybe everyone thinks they can write because most everyone can, as you said, to some extent. Few know what goes into the actual process of writing a novel. Few will consciously recognize those errors we've toiled and trained NOT to make.
karen_w_newton
Jun. 10th, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
>Few will consciously recognize those errors we've toiled and trained NOT to make.

I think you put your finger on it. The average casual reader doesn't even recognize good and bad writing in published books, so why should they think it's difficult to write well?
bogwitch64
Jun. 10th, 2010 02:51 pm (UTC)
I have a very knowledgable finger. ;)
karen_w_newton
Jun. 10th, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
And you're very free with it, too! -)
bogwitch64
Jun. 10th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)
Teehee. Better that than up my nose, eh?

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