I'm going over my "baby"- -the first novel I wrote, and trying to re-format it (one space at the end of each sentence, punctuation-stuff like that) as well as rewriting awkward and unclear sentences and situations. I find stuff to correct, only to find that the next sentence clears it up. Is this bad? I read it 8 times, 4 in each version, and the more I do it the more neither seems correct nor better.
Show, don't tell. EVER? This is when the first shark appears. Will he eat the scene? Will he eat the author? Will he look at it and decide, "I wouldn't eat either on a bet." If he swims off and leaves the scene, have I been passed or passed over?
The dialogue shark swims over to look at the conversation carrying the action. Should it be ultra correct grammatically? Who talks like that? Realism rears its ugly head and repeats into my ear what I heard my character say in the vernacular of those about whom (gotcha there, didn't I?) I write. They don't talk like that. Y'all know it. Anybody who's been there'll set you straight on it. They won't correct you, but you'll get a side wise look wondering just how many days you rode the turnip truck before you fell off with your funny way of talkin'. Dialect can bog you down right up to your eyeballs which the dialogue shark will want to eat up and try to spit out as proper, sterile speech. Now what? Scratch his tummy or spread shark repellent? I lean toward the latter, but wonder if I have already leaned too far, fallen off the boat, and am both overboard and up to my eyeballs in dialectic speech and ready to fight the shark.
Now I wonder about the sharks. Am I relying too much on outside influences? Am I (quoting my wife) wringing all the flavor juices out of the work by jumping through other people's literary hoops and not relying on my own instincts?
Write what you know. I've heard this a bunch. I know how the people I write about sound. Grew up with them. Worked with them. Was loved, reared, and cherished by them- -black, white, and mixed, and loved and cherished them in return.
I'll borrow from Admiral Farragut at the Battle of Mobile Bay (Civil War), and paraphrase him:
"Damn the sharks. Full speed ahead." He won his battle.
Now, if the sharks don't get me, maybe I'll win mine and get published some day. Hope springs eternal.
Harvey Honsinger, a 6th generation Texan, has six completed novels--westerns and historicals--and is actively marketing them. His short stories and poetry have been published in Arena Literary magazine. Harvey is an active member of the Thursday BWG critique group.