What’s behind the words?
It’s rather like “what’s behind the curtain?” The answer of course may be ‘very little’ or ‘a funny little man’ (pay no attention to him. He’s a wizard, and they are irascible (if not subtle) and quick to anger, especially if you notice their trickery.)
I made a comment about building and not getting a lot of writing done, and one of my friends (Jim) commented that building was satisfying: at least every day you could see that you’d achieved.
As I was working on stuff I hoped no one, least of all me, would ever see (rock-wool) or notice as itself… I thought to myself that actually building and writing are not that different, really.
There are two schools of thought about this: the one (whether you’re talking about building, writing books, or running a stable) is that if the viewer doesn’t see the all the work, they won’t value the work. In this version there’s lots of muck being shifted whenever you look in to the stables, the building has its inner-works on display, and the book has lots of grandiose wordage and every possible bit of background information included. There’s nothing essentially wrong with this, it’s just the process rather than the result being showcased. There are limits of course on just how much process CAN be showcased.
The second is my preferred version (YMMV) where the stable is spotless (and if you ever worked in one, you KNOW it didn’t get like that without enormous amounts of work) the ‘works’ of the building are hidden and unobtrusive. The insulation is hidden, the joints are hidden behind the coving, the building just looks like it is there – but it is warm (or cool) and still inside. And yeah… that book. If I notice the writing… it’s distracting me from the story. The writing needs to be damn near invisible, it’s so easy, effortlessly accessible.
Now, given that I am to the building trade and fine craftsmanship what Godzilla is to wristwatch repair, it’s fair to say that you can’t help noticing some of my efforts. That’s not because I want you to! The same of course is true of my writing. But with building – coving and skirting, and little quarter round and some trim here and there… and industrial quantities of filler and glue, paint… and a bad light and lots of alcohol and most of it is invisible. And, yeah the building is exceptionally strong and sound. The sheer inertia of the weight of bugle head hex screws, to say nothing on the overkill on materials makes far stronger than the better building skills of the professional builder. And yes I have researched their guidelines and required standards and said they might be cheap and adequate – but they look flimsy to an amateur like me, so I double up, and where they say either do this that or the next… I’ve likely done all three.
Which… um, really is not a bad recipe for a book too. Especially the alcohol part for the reader.
The more work you put into the bits the reader doesn’t see… the stronger it’ll be. I write character sketches (background and motivations) and dialogue samples for my characters – which readers see none of – but I know their voices and what makes them tick. I have vays of making them tock!
And editing is very like paint AND glue.