June 5th, 2003


Yolen: "...the self falling away..."

Jane Yolen's Take Joy: a book for writers, Kalmbach Publishing Company, 2003.

"Fiction, though, is more than just surprises. The writer in the midst of writing, like the penitent in the midst of prayer--finds the self falling away. Or getting out of the way. Only when we slip out of our writer bodies do we truly don the skin of story. We become one with the piece we are creating...Sometimes it just happens, that side-slippage. More often, the author has to work at turning sideways, becoming a mere shadow of authority, to let the story through. As in good prayer, there is a victory in that disappearance of self. But, like prayer, it takes work at first," (p. 28).

"[even] At the worst of times, writing is like that for me: flying just treetop level until the story or poem rises up to meet me. There is a joy when the air rushes past my wings; there is a sense of completeness when the journey is over," p. 20.

"Most of us know when we write a good sentence or two, a couple of phrases, a line of poetry, a single character.

"The rest--well, we wish we could rewrite it once more and maybe this time get it right," (p. 21).

turn your writing topsy-turvy

More from Jane Yolen's Take Joy. She has a chapter on advice. One section was a mostly new idea for me, an idea that can be endlessly modified. I plan to give it a try.

"When we force ourselves to go topsy-turvy, we can see anew what is on the page," (p. 49).

She suggests taking a single chapter and re-reading the whole thing while changing the gender of the characters, or the point of view, or leaving out all the modifiers, or counting how many times you've used each sense for events you've related. It's to help you see where you've repeated yourself, among other things.

She notes also that turning a prose paragraph into lines of poetry (just breaking the lines, not rhyming or anything) can help you identify where you've overwritten. Turning poetry into prose can help you see if you've been too cryptic.