Thursday, 16 October 2008

The difficulties of writing

I spent a couple of hours yesterday helping a friend edit the book he is writing. It reminded me how exasperatingly difficult writing a book can be at times.
Reading my friend's latest chapter I had the sense that something was not quite right. However it was difficult to put my finger on exactly what the problem was. I felt, in the end, that it was simply a little bit flat. My friend had begun to just write down everything that happened, rather than writing only what adds value to the story.
Then last night I came across these words from TS Eliot, and they seemed to sum up what I had been trying to say:

...every phrase
And sentence is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.

Easier said than done!



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