Author’s prerogative

Recently a fellow writer from Thursday Night Writes and I were chatting remotely about things, many and diverse. She mentioned that she didn’t “understand higher anything. Math, grammar, economics, electronics.” My immediate response? “To write we don’t need to understand higher anything. We need to feel and be able to convey what we feel. That’s it.”

Brilliant. Honest. At that exact moment, that is what I believed. I feel therefore I can write. Four days later, I still believe it.

And yet…At our weekly meeting of the Thursday Night Writes group, another member, who is on her third or tenth revision of her current (and almost perfect and so close to publishable) novel, submitted a rewrite of her next chapter for our review.

Did her submission meet my criteria for conveying what she feels? Most definitely. Did we expect her to understand “higher anything”? Why yes, as a matter of fact, we did.

Last night we quizzed her on contract law, injunctions, town government, and zoning permits. Her lawyer character is a crackerjack of an attorney and naturally we expect her to possess the same legal knowledge that she has attributed to this character.

We moved on to building construction and architecture. A discussion of whether the curvature of the building is tight or more gradual led to conjecture regarding curved-glass windows vs. regular windows placed into the curvature of the wall. I don’t even understand what I am trying to say and I was there. And how could we overlook the intricacies of contractor penalties for missed deadlines?

I have to give her credit, she did not get up and walk out, she did not raise her voice and emit words learned from Anthony Scaramucci, she did not shut down and pretend to record our comments—all things I have done or wanted to do while I was being quizzed on my writing. Instead, the author pointed out our misinterpretations and said she would consider all comments. That’s the author’s prerogative and absolutely the correct response.

So maybe I was wrong. As authors, maybe we do need to do more than feel. Maybe we do need to have an understanding of the “higher anything” that we write about. And maybe we do need an inordinate amount of patience dealing with our writing group members who don’t have the same understanding.

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About Karen Whalen

A contemporary fiction writer with an accumulation of incomplete novels and short stories, I consider NH "home," spending the summer through Christmas there with my husband. My youngest daughter and her family live nearby (as well as my mother and other family members). January finds us venturing to VA to visit our middle daughter and her family before we make our way to sunny AZ to live with our oldest daughter and family. We spend time in VA on our way home. I am fortunate that my daughters live in places I would have retired to all on my own! My 87 year-old mother asks if I will finish my novel (which one, I wonder) before she dies.....Even with that for a goal, I manage to excel at procrastination!

Posted on August 12, 2017, in blogging, Karen Whalen, research, rewriting, Thursday Night Writes, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Group and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. As the beneficiary of those comments, I can only say:
    1) Thank you, and
    2) Just you wait till you write something about quantum physics. Payback time!

    Like

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