The Shawshank Revision

There’s an aspiring writer like me behind every book in America, I guess. I’m the girl who can find the words. Nouns, adverbs, even adjectives if you’re partial, an adverb to sell your point with gusto in a dramatic situation. I can find you damn near any words, within reason. But are they the right words?

Ah, and therein lies the rub, as Shakespeare would say. I’m paraphrasing, of course. But I do have to wonder, how many drafts did old Willy go through before landing on the final tomb scene in Romeo and Juliet? Perhaps his first ending took place on a beach, or in the middle of the woods? Maybe his initial attempts concluded with Romeo knee-deep in mud, clutching the lifeless and dirt-caked corpse of his beloved, recently unburied bride to be? Then again, maybe I’m overcomplicating things.

I guess the point of this post is, WHEN does greatness happen? Is it there in the inception stage, when we first give birth to the idea? Do we really improve the plot the more we chip and rub away at it, attempting to make it more brilliant? Or, in smoothing away its rough edges, are we really dulling what might have been spectacular–if a little clumsy–to begin with?

I fear I’ve overused my analogies at this point. But you get the general drift. How much “last looks” are too much, before “making it work” as Tim Gunn would say, becomes “overworking” it? Take, for example, the overwhelming amount of random literary and pop culture references inherent in this post. I blame revisions for this.

2 thoughts on “The Shawshank Revision

  1. I believe a story’s conception is pure genius but a masterful story/novel takes much chipping and rubbing. I heard Jk Rowling answer some interviewer’s question of what did she think when people said she was lucky w HP and she said “the idea was lucky”. I’ve totally botched this example but have always remembered that the best authors make their work look easy. That’s not genius, it’s hard work.

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