Revisiting James Jones…Fast writing…
I am reading a book that has been on my “To read” list for a number of years. “The Pistol”, the 1959 classic by one of my favorite authors, James Jones, has flown under my reading radar for the past decade or so. I once located a copy in a used book shop some years ago, but was forced to put it back when I was told that the shop did not accept credit cards. When I returned an hour or so later, with the required three dollars, the book was gone. I forgot about it for a long time, thinking that the book was probably out of print, but for some reason, the other day on a whim, I searched Amazon for it. I found that it is alive and well, with both new and used copies available, as well as a Kindle download. (I opted for the Kindle download.)
If you haven’t read much Jones, or if you haven’t even heard of him, the Illinois native wrote largely about his wartime experiences as a soldier in World War II, having actually been present at the Bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. His award winning novel “From Here to Eternity” which won the U.S. National Award for fiction ten years later, is heralded by some to be the finest work of fiction to come from the Second World War.
“The Pistol” is more novella than novel, running a scant 148 pages. It is a great read about a young soldier stationed in the Schofield Barracks (Jones’ old Army digs on Oahu). The book begins with the attack on Pearl Harbor and follows PFC Richard Mast during the turbulent early hours of the War, when it was perceived that the air attack was simply the prelude to an all out invasion of Hawaii. Anyone with an interest of life in the pre-WWII U.S. Army, or in military history will enjoy this book.
“A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it again.” So said Ernest Hemingway in Stockholm, Sweden in his written (although not personally delivered), speech accepting the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.
I venture to suggest that for most of us, simply writing what we have to say is not easy. To help improve my own writing endeavors, I went searching for suggestions on how to improve my process. In so doing, I came across a great piece by Jim Denney about “Fast Writing”. It deserves a reblog, so you can read it here. After reading this, as well as a couple of other blogs about “Fast writing” it begins to make sense. The longer that we tweak sentences, and adjust format (something we technical writers just can’t seem to get enough of), that little voice in the back of your writer’s head whispers to you, ever so gently, “this is crap…delete, delete.”
I truly think that Denney is onto something here and I’m going to try it, as I continue with my latest work. I will note my progress here. In the meantime if you have any suggestions for keeping your story moving forward, and out of the trash, please feel free to comment.
Thanks for your kind words about my piece on “writing fast enough to stay ahead of the doubts.” I affirm your insight regarding second-guessing ourselves, and that little voice of the inner critic who actually harms our writing by critiquing our work-in-progress. “Get it down, take chances!” said Faulkner. “It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything good.” And Bradbury said, “In quickness is truth.” I’m absolutely convinced that the faster you get it down, the more powerful, passionate, moving, and true the writing will be. I wish you a grand writing adventure, Ed, and great success and influence. All the best! J.D.
I am actually trying to put your advice into practice. Also have bookmarked your blog so I can check back. Thank you again, and thank you for posting.
I’ve been writing a short story for a couple of years now. I work on it on and off which ,I know, is not good and I promise myself that I will set a writing schedule and stay with it. To address your issue: when I go back to the piece after being away from it for a while I am forced to read what I have written thus far. I find myself able to edit the language without undo obsessing, often seeming to be looser and more “creative” with the language. I seem to be able to move on pretty quickly. Of course, I don’t know how good any of it is but it’s fun ( also hard work ) and sometimes I feel the piece so far is not too bad.
I think the main thing is to keep moving forward until you get the bulk of what you want to say written. Then you can go back and edit the hell out of it. At least you’ll have the story line down. Keep writing and I will look forward to reading your work!