A Life Of fiction XCVIII

 

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

 

Searching For The Perfect Sentence: I spend a lot of time thinking about what I am going to write. I spend more time thinking about what I am going to write than actually physically writing it, even though I am the slowest typist in the whole wide world. I spent around twenty minutes thinking about the first two sentences of this post, trying to get the words right.

In everything which I write I search for the perfect sentence. I haven’t quite found it yet. So I keep on searching. But I attempt to make every single thing which I write the best thing which I am capable of accomplishing at that single moment in time.

Sometimes I will wait for a long time between sentences while working on one of my novels, maybe up to twenty minutes because I know that I don’t quite have the words right. The computer will be on beside me, as I wait for the words to slot into place. I don’t force the pace, but wait for the words to suggest themselves.

Sometimes they don’t come. They resolutely refuse to come. When that happens I put aside the project for a day or two, sometimes longer. I know that I will return to it at a later date. There are few projects which I ultimately abandon. Even after years of inaction I will return to projects to complete them.

I will open the file on some other project, perhaps a collection of short stories, or another novel. And I will seek a perfect sentence for each of these disparate works. I would be happy with just seventeen perfect syllables in a haiku. That would be enough for me.

 

What is the perfect sentence? What is a sentence that I am happy with? Well, as I have said, it is the best that I, as an author, am capable of coming up with. That does not mean that it is the greatest sentence ever written, as I admit that I am probably not the greatest novelist of all time.

To use old words in new ways… to do something which makes me smile, and which I would have liked to have read in the works of some other author. In the end I am the final arbiter of my work. I must be an editor and a critical judge. I must throw away that which does not work, and keep that which does.

Every word in the English lexicon has been used many times before. Even the rare words have all appeared in some novel or other. But the skill in writing novels is to string those words together in new and interesting ways. With there being so many words an author should never, ultimately, run out of ways of stringing sentences together.

Mathematics suggests that there should only be one perfect sentence, and that all others will not live up to the ideal. But, in the terms of literary works, such things are subjective. What one person sees as being perfect another person might see as having some minor flaw.

 

In terms of poetry, I think that parts of the poem The Second Coming, by William Butler Yeats, approach perfection, as far as verse is concerned, anyway; and I have quoted from that poem many times. But other people might prefer something by Alexander Pope – perhaps that line about eternal sunshine – or something by the underrated Edgar Allen Poe.

With perfection, perhaps, being defined by each individual viewpoint, it could be argued that the search for perfection is destined to always end in failure. But, perhaps, the point is the search itself, rather than the result. Maybe we, as writers, need to keep searching for that perfect combination of words, in order that our desire to write will never dissipate.

   Turning and turning in his widening gyre

   The falcon can no longer hear the falconer;

   Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

   Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

Those are the four lines from the poem which stick in my mind, and which I consider to be approaching perfection. But, as I have said, such a thing as perfection (in writing) is something which is entirely subjective. You might have a different view on which verse gets nearest to the perfect line. Perhaps you prefer Edgar Allen Poe…

All that we see or seem

   Is but a dream within a dream.

…or William Blake.

And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,

   And binding with briars my joys and desires

The point, perhaps, after all I have written about perfection is that it only exists in the eye of the beholder; and true perfection, perhaps, might be a little dull. Perhaps, after all, it is the flaws which make things interesting. But the search for perfection – that is the important thing. We must always strive to improve ourselves, and to try to make each new poem or bit of prose better than the one before.

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