Daily Archives: May 7, 2012

Voice and Other Asides…Ahem…(more bookdoctor ad libs)

Trust me, I’m a Doctor.

As to voice, yes, I think you have something there. This isn’t my free-wheeling, intellectual riff voice. This is my more cautious book doctor voice, the therapist guy who has read and critiqued several hundred authors’ novels and scripts (language line edits but also developmental structural issues like plot, character, theme, setting, point of view, etc). Of course my sympathy was also enlarged by my experience as a novelist. So, one thing I have learned is an empathy for a serious writer who puts his or her heart and soul into the creation of a text. Even with compositional flaws, courageous effort earns lasting moral and aesthetic victories for the artist.

Here’s an additional comment about the hard work of revision I used to mention to my book doctor clients who were often new novelists:

It’s my hunch that dedicated writers love to re-write sentences, whatever the length of the genre, from lyrical poem to multi-volume novel. A standard novel may have 10,000 sentences, a short story 100, but each sentence needs to be massaged and voiced until it works in the ensemble of other sentences. That’s sometimes a long process. In fact, what I’m saying is that most career writers are just re-writing and re-voicing most of the time. A first draft doesn’t take that long generally, but a final draft with ten complete revisions (my average) may take years. James Joyce worked a thousand hours on one 50-page section of Ulysses (the “Nausicaa” episode, beach, Bloom and Gerty MacDowell). Joyce worked on Ulysses as a whole for a decade or more. He worked about 19 years on his final novel, the mythic supernovel, Finnegans Wake. Maybe that’s one reason I like writing flash fiction. I can finish a ten-layered revision in a week or two, rather than a year or two with an “ordinary” literary novel (whatever that beast may look like).

Carpe diem and remember to claim your right to a refreshing siesta.


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