Writing on the Beach: A little bit of screenwriting, a little bit of prose

Okay, here’s something I learned recently during rewrites. I noticed I was improving. Yes, this happens by default, but I was improving in areas that I am not as adept in. This is pretty much physicality in writing–setting and movement.

Once in graduate school, a professor noted that I “write quickly.” Which was true, I type very quickly. Because dialogue is my strength and how I keep my story moving, most of a draft will be dialogue.

It’s funny, though, because there was one draft of my work-in-progress that had too much non-dialogue, and conference faculty mentioned it. It was very confusing, but since then I’ve learned and grown. After chopping a lot off, I realized what I had too much of. It wasn’t essential. It was a lot of backstory.

What I needed to bulk my ms with was the present. The scene. Setting, movement, etc. After thinking about it, my issue was (unconsciously) approaching novel writing as if it were screenwriting. Yes, I’ve taken screenwriting courses, but that only improved my ability to take action on ideas. (Have you ever tried going from concept to synopsis to first draft to revised draft all in 10 weeks? It’s hell. Amazing… But hell.)

While screenwriting skills lend themselves to prose writing, I was missing out on one huge, important advantage of prose writing–time can stand still in prose. When something happens that causes a reaction, you actually don’t have to move on to the reaction in the very next sentence. The beauty of prose is that you can stay in that moment of this thing happening for as long as you want. Same for the reaction.

This might be a no-brainer for most prose peeps, but for more cinematic-minded writers like me, it’s a big deal to figure it out on a theoretical level. I get it now! And it makes writing more fun. I just have to get used to doing it…

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