I have been editing, writing and publishing for about 25 years in New York City and it took a trip to Hollywood to get my head straight. That’s right: Hollywood. The light came on when I was jamming a giant turkey burger down my wattle at the Warner Brothers’ commissary. My lunch partner and partner partner said it. It was electrifying.
“The treatment lacks subtext and continuity,” she said, smiling over tiny blanched vegetables.
For some reason, this word “continuity” word blasted through my brain in a way “arc of the narrative” never could.
“Bullshit,” I said.
“No, we’re fixing it,” she said, tiny purple carrot at the edge of her ruby red mouth.
I looked over at George Clooney’s basketball court and squinted.
“You know, I think you’re right,” I said.
You see, the hardest job a writer will EVER have is writing short. I had written a novel that had to be boiled down to a treatment (think beef glace here) and I wasn’t experienced or instinctive enough to achieve that goal. Three hundred pages needed to be thirteen. We got the action compressed but not the detail and back story that make a story a story. It had no ecology. We needed later pages of the treatment to feed off the first pages and I hadn’t put any tiny fish or plankton in and everyone was starving. At least INSIDE the book, I had extra Doritos.
This of your stories as you think of a pond or a meadow. One thing must fit into and feed off the rest. Nothing is separate, ever. (Quantum theory or a hallucinogenic drug trip explains this, you decide which.) This ecology must be intact no matter how short the joke, the paragraph, the chapter, or the book. No one can read your work and still be hungry.
Try writing short. It’s really hard. And because we know that, we’ll soon have something for you that will change your approach to writing forever.
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