Spontaneous Eloquence

“When asked about rewriting, Ernest Hemingwy said that he rewrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times before he was satisfied. Vladimir Nabokov wrote that spontaneous eloquence seemed like a miracle and that he rewrote every word he ever published, and often several times. And Mark Strand, former poet laureate, says that each of his poems sometimes goes through forty to fifty drafts before it is finished.” 
― Susan M. Tiberghien, One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft

These words ring well and true to me today.

William Goldman’s remark – “Writing is rewriting” – is one of the most-quoted yet least-followed pieces of advice in the world of storytelling.

I’m not certain why. Perhaps it is the endorphin rush we feel when typing FADE TO BLACK or LIGHTS OUT or THE END depending upon form (although, as I have never attempted the novel, my mind tells me that novelists spend an extraordinary amount of time rewriting, editing, etc); perhaps it is the experience of completion, an euphoric and almost hallucinatory moment, in which the blood, sweat, and tears have finally produced a progeny. We have given birth to our tale, and for one brief shining moment, we experience the pure love that a parent does, as they hold their newly formed child in their arms. We are dazzled by our creation.

I did not launch this blog to tell people “how to” become a writer. I don’t believe one can teach writing. I believe one can foster and nourish growth and voices. There are tools that can be learned – structure, dialogue, clarity of action. There are books, classes and workshops for these tools – and I am not a teacher. I am a perpetual student, of writing, and of life.

I did begin this blog to share my journey as a new screenwriter in a place as strange as Hollywood, documenting my highs and my lows. Each full step forward is a culmination of mini-steps, lurching forward, stumbling back, regaining balance and momentum before that full step is finally made. This is my confessional, if you will.

I have not shared anything for a very long spate, for as most know, life is what happens when you make plans, and a great deal happened on my end. Healing takes time, a great deal of it, and the work continues. And so, I find myself again in the world of placing words on the page. This is not like riding a bicycle. There is so much to remember, so much to relearn. Today, I am sharing a little slice of my life as I fumble my way back into the life of storytelling.

Almost three months ago, I wrote a short piece for theatre. A ten page moment-in-life on a subject I am passionate about. Three weeks later, I had ten pages that I felt were ready to be looked at for criticism. I asked three souls whom I deeply respect, and they were kind enough to read my piece, think on it, and give me the gift of the objective view through their notes.

I worked further, applying notes, rewriting dialogue, distilling ideals, discarding the unnecessary, and giving the character(s) their due. I read it aloud, more than once, rewrote more, and finally surrendered.

Or so I thought.

While mulling the piece over in my mind, I kept returning to an alternate ending I had considered. There were two ways to end. I chose one over the other, partly on principle, in regard to the message of the subject, the assembly line of autocracy and the treatment of people as disposable items. All well and good, and yet…

I realized that I had chosen a film ending for a theatre piece. I had not embraced the elements of theatre in a way the form deserved. I chose an ending which would play out quite beautifully as a series of shots, in a Todd Field style, but that was film and I am writing for theatre.

And so, today, I reopen Final Draft, and begin to explore my alternate choice, why I feel it is a better and stronger choice, and continue to work on my ten page piece.

Ten pages. Three and a half months and counting. Hard, rewarding work – none of it spontaneous. Hopefully it may have eloquence.

Now, go write.

About princessscribe

Screenwriter. Creator of things. I love tacos. "Midlife on Fire" Volumes 1 & 2 now available at Amazon.com.
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6 Responses to Spontaneous Eloquence

  1. Gary says:

    “I had chosen a film ending for a theatre piece” is a very intuitive observation – and accurate. As for Hemingway, my favorite quote attributed to him (yet not his): “Write drunk; edit sober.” Sounds great, but “drunk” is relative – perhaps subjective. It’s virtually impossible for me to write (primary, rough, first drafts…) without editing as I go. I suppose that’s what being drunk is supposed to forestall – just get it out and on the page, tweak it tomorrow. I just follow the rule: Do whatever works for you [me].

    Liked by 1 person

  2. edcol52 says:

    Eloquent as always Anne. I want to tell you, I even rewrite my Facebook posts and texts so I feel you. Still looking for my own fingers to unfreeze, or maybe it’s my mind that must thaw out.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lynnvinc says:

    Great advice and inspiration. I really need to face it. My intro on my current screenplay is not great, but I’ve been hanging on to it. Your post helps give me a push into looking into alternatives.

    Also I remember some rewriting advice about printing out the screenplay to read it hard copy. I’m trying to do that about every 5th or so rewrite. The person wrote, “Print that puppy out.” I love it. Puppy.

    Also thinking about the birth analogy in this post. After the difficult birth… well, we have to rear it, guide it, make it into a good and responsible citizen. Don’t spare the cross-out rod. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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