Thursday, November 16, 2006

Writing like Mozart


One of the hardest things about writing a book has been getting the feedback. It's like having someone come up and say things about your kid... Why's she got curly hair? Can't she talk better than that? Gosh, where'd she get those teeth? Sigh.

Right now, I'm particularly trying to work on the poetic aspects of my text— what one Reader critiqued as "purple prose." I'm struggling with how much to keep and how much to put aside.

Still, the other day I read this about Mozart, and I felt much better...

"...[with] Mozart, we are always tempted to dwell on the extraordinary purple passages without noticing that in every case they are followed or preceded by the most conventional devices. They complement and support each other."

This reminded me that "purple" is not bad. It simply needs to be balanced. So, now I'm trying to write like Mozart. A little purple here, a little conventional there. I'm also trying to remember that some people are just going to have their opinions, and I will have to stroll this book through the public square regardless... maybe even with a little Mozart mischief in my step.

Butterfly Bush photo, by Sonia. Quote from Books & Culture, "The Triumph of Genius," November 2006

13 Comments:

Blogger Stephanie said...

It's definitely true that everyone will have their opinions. I think using a little purple and a little convential sounds like a great plan. I used to write myself, but I gave up because I was always redoing things because they were never good enough. Writing is not one of my gifts :)

8:07 AM  
Blogger angela said...

**Could you expound a little for me on meat and land for people -- in regards to the comment you left on my blog. Thanks. seems very interesting.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Christianne said...

"...a little Mozart mischief in [your] step" -- I loved this line! Very, er, poetic.

Remember that you have to live with the book, ultimately, and will want something you can always look upon with fondness, affection, care, and pride.

Also, I love reading books by WRITERS who have things to say (as opposed to people who have things to say and so decide to write them down). People like Don Miller and Anne Lamott come to mind. I treasure every single sentence in their books, reading them again and again with marvel, because not only are the ideas profoundly moving but the prose that way, as well.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Craver VII said...

I like to hear stuff like this. Later, when I read the book, it can be enjoyed at a higher, personal level.

I wonder whether the day is not too far off, when you will have to get used to being referred to as "Sonia's mother." Pictures here, intelligent critiques there... She's a bright little star!

Unfortunately, I am unable to say anything about my own 7-yr-old, 'cause he's going to be a superhero and I have to protect his civilian identity.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

I'm with you on the purple prose. I'm a bit of a minimalist myself--or at least I try to be.

I think a little purple goes a long way.

Then again, in San Antonio there's a store called "Primarily Purple." They just sell stuff that's purple. For my taste that's a little intense, like a paragraph full of exclamation points.

But you know, the store has been in business for a long long time.

I try to trust my gut. And not be afraid to cut.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Charity Singleton said...

I was just thinking of the poem, "Warning" by Jenny Joseph with the opening line, "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me." (I think the Red Hat movement of women may have been inspired by this poem).

As in this poem, wearing (or writing) purple seems to be something we think we have to earn. Conformity first, then creativity.

But just as the poem ends, "But maybe I ought to practise a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised when suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple," I think you should heap on a generous does of whatever color suits you right now. There's already enough gray prose out there.

3:21 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Stephanie... thanks! I must say that re-doing is a big part of any writer's life. And most of us feel we are never good enough. :)

Angela... thanks for coming over to ask... hope I answered it to your satisfaction (or, to pique more interest!)

Christianne... you're a great encouragement... yes, I want something I can live with (and that others can live with too). So glad you see me as a "writer."

Craver... well, now, it's nice to know you're thinking of reading it! Yes, I am Sara and Sonia's mother... they bring wisdom and wit and have helped me grow. Oh, very funny about your superhero. As always, you make me laugh.

Mark... I am probably not a minimalist. You should see my house. Stuff all over the place. Color splashed on every wall. And I always laugh a little too loud, too- whether I'm indoors or out. :)

Charity... love that poem quote!! I guess I am more of a non-conformist than a conformist. But I realize I have to find ways to bridge into the familiar, or else I make no impact. Someday, however, I have a secret desire to write like Annie Dillard and actually get away with it. (this, of course, will require not only an increase in talent, but also an increase in popularity first. :) In any case, I do so appreciate your dear encouragement to go beyond the grey.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I don't associate "purple prose" as a bad thing. I guess you would know how it was meant, but don't assume it was bad. If the prose is still good, and the words give it meaning, then it's okay if they are purple.

What I don't like is when the purple does scream, as in the store mentioned, and you forget that you are looking at T-shirts, and pencils, and notepads--the function--and you only think PURPLE!

6:19 PM  
Blogger eph2810 said...

You know - you can't please everyone. But I am sure that you will find more people who will enjoy your book than the ones who don't. I always say: "write from the heart"...

8:29 PM  
Blogger Martin Stickland said...

Do not worry, just write how you feel, I am sure if the words in the book are as fluent and enlightening as your blog then everything will just turn out 'fine & dandy'!

PS You have some rather intelligent people making comments on your blog.

2:39 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Jennifer... I wasn't sure I knew what it meant either, but I just kind of figured it out from the passionate nature of purple!

Eph2810... thanks for the encouragement. I'm pretty sure my grandma is going to like the book. :)

Martin... not the least of whom is you! (intelligent, I mean.) I am very thankful for all the wonderful people who come here to say interesting things. And I thank you for your compliments on my writing. So, now I know that grandma will be joined by Martin! (see above)

6:57 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Interesting, L.L.

Yes, no matter what it is, it will never make everyone happy. I'm sure there's even a few who don't care for the music of Mozart (leaving the issue of music genre aside)! Thanks.

5:39 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Ted... yes, funny you should say that about Mozart... I was thinking that even as I created the post. :) thanks for your encouragement.

5:14 PM  

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