Balance

2010
06.21

As I eagerly await the arrival of my twins (anytime between now and July), I struggle with finding time to write, read, blog, etc.

See, my wife is basically on bed rest, so that means I have to work, come home, do laundry, dishes, dinner, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining at all (I would MUCH rather be picking up the slack than be the one pregnant… hand down!), I’m just preluding my point that finding balance has been the name of the game as of late; balance between work, chores, kids, wife and me time (which ranks low on the “necessity” scale) has been rough.

Earlier today, I was reading P.D Wright’s blog, and she has a guest post by David Oliver (GREAT post on slang, ninja’s, and writing). His post discusses the importance of avoiding contemporary terms in a fantasy (or futuristic) novel.  I suggest you check it out, then come back to read the rest of this… go ahead, I’ll wait. 🙂

Welcome back! Where was I… oh yes, balance. So his post got me thinking, “How can you remove all contemporary terms, but still have your contemporary this-world readers understand it all?” The answer is simple: you can’t.

Don’t let me detract from David’s post here. I don’t mean to say that you can throw caution to the wind and write however you like, rather, there are a certain amount of words and phrases that you will NEED to use in order to have your reader follow the story. You should strive, however, to remove as many unnecessary euphemisms as you can, and even create new one as David suggests. All in all, this is going to be a balance. Somewhere between losing your readers because they don’t understand you, and losing your readers because you continuously rip them from the story, there is a perfect balance.

That got me thinking about other aspects of writing, and it occurred to me, that ALL of writing is balance. Between word economy and wordcrafting (could also be thought of as the difference between showing and telling), between over describing so your reader has to use ZERO imagination, and using too little so they can’t picture anything, and between foreshadowing too much so the event loses its impact, or too little, and the event seems either hokey, out of place, or just unbelievable.

The examples go on and on, but they all boil down to balance. I think that they key to GREAT writing, is mastering this balance. This is what I strive for whenever I open my word processor.

When anyone figures out how to master that balance, be sure to let me know. I’m having a rough time trying to figure it out. 😉

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6 Responses to “Balance”

  1. Anthony D. Devry says:

    Shiney.

  2. “When anyone figures out how to master that balance, be sure to let me know. I’m having a rough time trying to figure it out.”

    Five steps to getting it right: practice, inspiration, luck, experimentation, and prayer – reorder as necessary.

  3. David Oliver says:

    Thanks for the plug! I can feel my ego growing by the moment… 😀

    Balance: a struggle so oft forgotten and so important to the act of writing. Much like euphemisms, balance is something that we all use at some level throughout our lives without giving it a lot of thought. Your post has made me think about some of the issues of balance in my own manuscript and how I can better tweak the various elements to create a richer tapestry of a story. Of course, this will mean the rewrite/revision is going to be a lot more difficult. Perhaps the measure of good advice is how much more work it will pile on top of an already overburdened struggling writer. (Or then again, perhaps not….)

    “When anyone figures out how to master that balance, be sure to let me know….”

    I don’t think anybody can figure out how to master balance in writing; the best they can hope for is to master the balance for the particular story they are working on. A story is a dynamic beast which represents a balance in-and-of-itself between the vision of the writer and the expectations of the reader. With great care and perseverance a writer can find a fine balance within their work, and if they are willing to listen to the expectations of the reader, in this case the peer-review group, they can hone their story well, perhaps to perfection.

    A writer may learn many fine tricks to writing a balanced piece; they may find many of the same formulas useful to finding the proper balance in each of their writings, this is one of the secrets behind practice after all, but the needs of one story will not be the same as the needs of another story, so they will have to be freshly diligent every time. For example, a writer may create a good story that balances action with exposition, plot with character and tone with clarity. This is a good balance, but that writer’s next piece may be a story written in its entirety as a dialogue between two old friends about the philosophies of life in the machine age. The balance needed for the second story is greatly different than the balance needed for the first story. In sum, the key to mastering balance is know that there is no universal key; that the writer must always learn to plot the balance on an ever changing landscape and that they can do this by being aware of the needs of the story.

    “Five steps to getting it right: practice, inspiration, luck, experimentation, and prayer- ”

    I like this a lot, though I might add hard work, diligence, research and thought, though most of these could be contained in some of the listed five.

  4. Myrna says:

    Yeah. Isn’t it great how one reader tells you you’ve given too much information and another wants more? I’m trying to take everything into consideration and go with what feels right to me.

    I’m sorry Julie’s on bed rest. That has to be rough for everybody. I can’t imagine that you’re going to have any more time after they’re born either, but having twins has to be exciting. Do you know if they’re boys or girls or one of each?

    And I think I’m about to fall off the blogging wagon (or at least cut back drastically) for a while; I have a first draft that wants out, and I don’t know how to balance that with kids home for the summer and blogging. Blogging isn’t anywhere near as important as the other two. It’s just fun. Ya know?

  5. C. Michael Fontes says:

    @Myrna
    One boy, one girl. Yeah, it’s been rough on everyone. I know it will be hard when they come, too, but at least Julie will be able to move around and be in less pain (at least, after she heals up).

    Yeah, I know. Kids/Family is first priority (after God, that is), and your writing should definitely take precedence over blogging. Hopefully we will see you back soon, though:)

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