Prose: the crafting of sentences that seem spoken by a real person. It is what writers do to make the reader think they are watching a conversation take place in front of them. But: “prose is hard”, said probably every writer ever. And while some authors still intentionally go with a more flowery prose, I think it is off-putting for the general public who want to read something which reflects our modern use of language.* I am (currently) one of them.
Should you bother?
There are many aspects to the writing process that are difficult, especially when first drafting a first book. So should you bother with prose when you’re at this stage of writing?
Probably not, but this is easier said than done. Especially if you’re somewhat like me and have experienced words flowing from your fingers. It is hinting at something greater, and it can very be frustrating when you don’t reach that level.
What I’ve learned from people talking about prose that it is something you learn over time. When you have written more and integrated the more basic parts of the writing process into your system, other aspects will receive more attention in the earlier drafts. This is part of the learning curve, were patience and experience will become visible over time. You cannot pay attention to all the details at once, but it will get easier over time.
It is frustrating when the sentences look more like a summary of events then an actual story, while simultaneously your characters are having difficult and jarring conversations. How can you not look at the parts that seem to shine because they were created in a flash of creativity, a moment of flow state that is mostly desired but often not achieved.
I really liked this interview with author Joe Abercrombie who mentions (around 28:55) that he really spent a lot of time on improving the first chapters of his book just to get it up to a satisfactory level before continuing on with later chapters. A very good tip, though not something I am aiming to do now. It is still my goal to finish the first draft this year. I want the experience of finishing a first draft. However I also realise that my last month has been one of procrastination and limited time and energy spent on writing. The realisation that my prose wasn’t very good really did a number on my determination. Combined with the increasing stress of ‘normal’ life picking up I just didn’t feel like writing. It was a slog just to get through the one scene I was working on with the knowledge that the next scene had even less content prepared… I just couldn’t push myself to it and spent my time the worst way: Not writing!
How I (mentally) fixed it
I did some reflecting on the situation and came to the realisation I was thinking and judging my work too seriously. It took some time but I’ve dealt with it and feel mentally refreshed. It is clear what I must do: finish the first draft. And not worry too much about the prose and the other, more advanced stuff. While I already find myself correcting written sentences, it is not a necessary thing to do right now. There is so much to take into account when writing that it can be overwhelming. The proven path is to take one (baby) step at a time and trust the process. So that’s what I’m going to do.
I am still very much in learning mode and I want to further dig in on the theory when time allows, but I’m realizing that it will take a lot of time before I integrate a lot of the more challenging aspects I’m dealing with right now. I’m hoping that next year, things will become more clear when I can work my way through a finished draft.
With that goal set, please excuse me while I start writing again. For November, please enjoy this song which lyrics talk about that spot on the horizon. And yes, it is also a teaser for its subject.
*I understand the applicability with races or characters in a specific setting. But in my opinion it can decrease the reading experience if not done correctly.