"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The agony, and pleasure, of writing

Multiple versions, notes, pens, paper, computer
Writing is hard work. Remember when  experts said computers would make paper obsolete? Hmph. If I can't run the notes out, run the first draft out, and mark it up and scribble ideas, I'd be stuck. Sure it wasn't a news story, which can be much simpler in structure than a magazine non-fiction piece, but...What was supposed to be a simple little 700 word story, with two weeks to write, for some reason caused me all kinds of agony--I think because there was so much interesting anecdotes, description and more that I had to pare down.

Still, right before I hit "send" to the editor, I read the piece one more time, ran spell check one more time, and found errors I would have missed if I'd just been looking at the screen.

I know, the shorter version is leaner and probably better--I'm happy with it, but wistful. I'll tell you what and where it's about when it goes to press in a few months.

I'm not complaining, because every story is a discovery of new stories and people and interesting places.
It all started with "I wonder." Then I accumulated more than 2,500 words of scribbled notes from in-person interviews and visits, email and phone interviews, email follow up with more questions, checking web pages, transcribing the notes, checking the AP style book.. Then there was lots of stewing and thinking, running phrases and sentences over in my head.

First done was the "lead," about 100 words in three paragraphs itself, written  and revised and polished, and changed again even today. Usually that makes the rest of the story easier, but this one got down to essentials. I finally decided on the concluding paragraphs Friday, and spent the weekend cutting and pasting and rearranging and making it flow.

I ended with three versions of it--from 100 words to long, to acceptable. Now it's the editor's job. Whew.



 

1 comment:

  1. I always say that all of my best writing is done at my worst times.

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