So I never thought it would happen ... I was beginning to doubt I'd ever be writing new fiction again. To recap: I was clipping along beautifully on a book last winter and spring. I was very excited about this book. Then I got a request for revisions on an older book, which sent me underground all summer. I finished the revisions and decided to shop a nonfiction book, and I got a request for a proposal that took another month to put together. And guess what? I dropped the proposal in the mail this morning.
I've had a zillion writing-related thoughts all this time. I suspect, in a weird way, that I'm a totally different writer now than I was a year ago. At least I certainly hope so, considering that I've now rewritten the same two books over and over and over and over. If I didn't learn anything in that process, then hit me with a frying pan. Also, I don't know how else to describe it, but my writing has gained a certain sure-footedness as of late. I think being exposed to fairly intense criticism, and working REALLY hard to answer that criticism, has sharpened my senses. So as I contemplate picking my book back up, I'm in a good place. My head is on as straight as it gets, I think I'm working on a pretty solid concept with a good start, and I'm generally just really excited about it.
Now, to writing. I drive my oldest son to school every morning, so we spend about half an hour in the car together. Lately, I've been paying attention to how often we talk about school. In total, I'd say it's about 15% of the time. The rest of the time we're talking about everything else -- ideas mostly, but also people and histories and stories.
If you think about it, people almost never talk about what they're doing. Because they're doing it. Who narrates their every activity? Boooring. This is true in books, too. Having the characters talk about what they're doing, or just did, is just flat out redundant. Because the reader was there too, they already saw it happen.
I've been working on this lately, on writing dialogue that isn't about plot as much as it's about the flow of thought stimulated by the events covered in the plot. Like my son and I going to school, people rarely talk about what they're doing. They talk about what they are thinking, the ideas they have. People's thoughts are tangential, and they're often self-referential. So that's my challenge now, as I finally start writing again ... every time I find my characters talking about the plot, I ask myself, "Really? Is that really the way it works?"
More often than not, the answer is no.