Why I do this

Sometimes I remember why I write.

I had a moment like that yesterday, when I was going through and rewriting the first novel manuscript I ever completed, a bloated crime tale I called Twisted. In the midst of the rewrites I found the voice I’d looked for when I first tried to write the novel: clipped, cynical, stark.

And then I wrote what seems to me to be a perfect line. It’s in the midst of describing a bank the characters are heisting (I like that word. Heisting.) … Here’s the line:

The bank looked like it should, a cathedral to the Almighty Dollar, with marble floors, a high, rounded ceiling and plenty of dark mahogany. A basilica for the Benjamins.

No, it’s not high art. But anyone who has ever stood in line for a teller knows that feeling — that hushed, nearly awed reverence for banks. This is where the money sleeps. It’s a good line. A crafted line. No need to go into detail about what the bank looks like because we’ve all been in one before. More important, it seems to me, is to remind readers what a bank feels like. Does that make sense?

Writing, when I do it well, fills me with wonder and happiness that few things can match. That sense of passion is one of the biggest reasons I write. Not for publication. Not even for anyone else. I write, first and foremost, for me–because I love it. That’s the truth of the matter. When it’s just me staring down the blank page, filling it to the brim with ideas, with words, with anger and despair and hope and heartbreak and love–that’s when I’m at my best.

Anyway, I had a pretty decent writing day yesterday. Got 3,000 words down, and ended up cutting 8,000 words from the manuscript right off the bat. After reading through the first thirty-five pages or so, I realized that all I had in the beginning was backstory. Maybe some of that stuff will filter in later, but for now it’s out.

After that literary circumcision, I was able to start my crime novel with something important — the actual crime. I read over what I did yesterday, and this version is stronger, so far. The story is leaner and meaner, and the characters are no longer feasting on a gluttony of meaningless dialogue.

So yeah, a productive day. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for as a writer.

Coming up with a great line, too? That’s just gravy.

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